India had the highest number of internet shutdowns by government authorities in 2018. According to data compiled by Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre’s ‘internetshutdowntracker’, there were 121 instances till date were the internet was shutdown upon request from the government.
The data shows how internet freedom has seen an impact with increased government control. The ‘Freedom on The Net 2018’ report released on Thursday saw India drop two places to 43, from a score of 41 last year. The report basically stands where higher the score, lesser is the freedom on the internet. India has now slipped in the ‘partially free’ category and the drop is mainly driven by an increased government shutdown.
In India, we have seen the government announcing shut down of the internet service to prevent riots, incidents of hate crime and even to prevent cheating in exams. “In Tamil Nadu, a video showing a child being kidnapped went viral on WhatsApp with a warning of child kidnappers on the prowl. The video is originally an announcement against child kidnapping from Pakistan,” the report said citing instances of internet shutdown.
The report states that internet shutdown has been growing significantly in the country and has grown from 31 and 79 instances in 2016 and 2017 respectively to 121 in 2018. The number might go up by the end of the year. The report also highlights the decision by Supreme Court declaring privacy as the fundamental right in August 2017 as the victory for internet freedom but sees the platform to be “plagued by security breaches.”
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The report cites researchers who exposed security issues with Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number issued to residents of India, based on their biometric and demographic data. It also brands Indian authorities as “poor custodians of citizen’s information.”