Iranian authorities imposed 18 Internet shutdowns in 2022 in response to months-long nationwide demonstrations against the government, the third highest number in the world, according to a US digital rights advocacy group.
“From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, authorities are imposing internet shutdowns at staggering rates. In 2022 alone, governments and other actors disrupted the internet at least 187 times across 35 countries,” Internet advocacy watchdog Access Now said in a report on February 28.
“Not only are shutdowns resurging after a decrease at the height of the [COVID-19] pandemic, they’re lasting longer, targeting specific populations, and are being wielded when people need a connection the most — including during humanitarian crises, mass protests, and active conflict and war.”
With 84 shutdowns implemented last year, India remains the country with the highest number of recorded shutdowns in the world for the fifth consecutive year, Access Now said.
At least 49 Internet shutdowns took place in Indian-administered Kashmir “due to political instability and violence.” The Himalayan region has long been a flashpoint between India and neighboring Pakistan, which claim the region in full but rule only parts.
During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military cut Internet access at least 22 times, “engaging in cyberattacks and deliberately destroying telecommunications infrastructure.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran, known for its harsh Internet censorship which includes banning thousands of websites, responded to widespread protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police by imposing 18 shutdowns, which Access Now called “a further escalation of its repressive tactics.”
Iranian security forces have killed more than 520 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000 others in their crackdown of the women-led protest movement, activists say. Following unlawful detentions and biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.