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Internet censorship hit 4.2 bn in 2022, J&K had highest disruptions globally, says report

A new report by Surfshark & internet watchdog NetBlocks says 11 Asian countries curbed access to the internet in 2022.

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New Delhi: A new report has revealed that more than 4.2 billion people were affected by internet censorship in 2022, with Asians accounting for roughly half (47 per cent) of those impacted.

The report, prepared by internet security company Surfshark in partnership with internet watchdog NetBlocks, also said that 32 countries were affected by internet censorship in 2022, with a total of 112 recorded incidents. Among these, 34 cases ‘started’ before 2022, while 78 in the past year.

With 24 recorded incidents, Jammu and Kashmir saw the most number of censorships for a single region anywhere in the world, the study noted.

The report revealed that 11 Asian nations had curbed access to the internet in 2022, with a total of 58 disruptions. India had a total 34 internet bans, followed by Iran that had 11 internet disruptions, Sudan with four incidents and Burkina Faso as well as Zimbabwe with three cases each.

The report cited protests and political turmoil as primary causes for internet censorship in 2022. Internet was suspended at several places in India in June last year during protests against the Centre’s new military recruitment scheme, Agnipath.

Iran also saw major internet disruptions when protests broke out across the country after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly failing to comply with the country’s strict rules on women’s dress.

Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks said, “Through the past year we’ve seen how governments have used internet shutdowns and telecommunications blackouts as a tool of repression and control, silencing journalists, civil society, and the general public. Internet connectivity today underpins all human rights, which is why it’s more critical than ever to document mass-censorship incidents and find ways to get people reconnected.”

Facebook most restricted in 2022

The report also found that of all social media platforms, Facebook was the most-restricted in 2022 and remains highly censored. Since 2015, a staggering 46 per cent of the global population has, in some way or the other, been affected by government-imposed Facebook restrictions, it noted.

Countries such as Burkina Faso, Russia, and Azerbaijan had the longest internet disruptions last year. Facebook was restricted in Burkina Faso in January last year and continues to be inaccessible till date, the report said.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram disruptions in the country are still ongoing. Russia has also blocked access to major international news sites. Azerbaijan restricted access to TikTok in September last year and its remains banned to this day.

The Internet Censorship Tracker, developed by Surfshark in partnership with NetBlocks, has been tracking partial and complete internet and social media shutdowns in 196 countries and territories since 2015.

Also read: WEF-backed Schwab Foundation names top social innovators for this year, 5 Indians on list


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