So far in 2021, three major political events— mass protests by farmers in India, a military coup in Myanmar, and a presidential election in Uganda—have had at least one thing in common: government-imposed internet blackouts.
For the past several years, authorities around the world have periodically stopped the flow of digital information to curb popular discontent and tighten their hold on power. There were at least 213 such shutdowns in 2019, an increase from 2018, according to the digital rights group Access Now.
The worst offender is not an authoritarian regime but the world’s largest democracy. In 2020, India restricted internet use more than any other nation—and suffered the highest economic cost as a result, according to a report by Top10VPN.com, a company that reviews virtual private networks.
Indian farmers have camped outside of New Delhi for months, demanding a repeal of agriculture laws passed last year that they claim favor big companies over small landholders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government toughened its stance against the protesters after violent clashes broke out in January. The government cut internet, water, and phone service at protest sites.
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