Categories
Growing the Internet

From Content Blocking to National Shutdowns: Understanding Internet Disruptions

In March 2019, in a move described in one news report as a “government-imposed Internet shutdown,” the president of Sri Lanka temporarily blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Viber, and other services. In this case, limited access to a class of applications was inaccurately painted as a full-scale Internet shutdown. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual. Media coverage and general discussion of Internet disruptions often misclassify what happened. The confusion is likely unintentional. Many journalists, as well as the general public, are not well-versed in the various ways Internet access and access to content can be disrupted.

When people can’t get to their favorite social media site, chat app, or video platform, there can be many causes. Maybe there’s a local Internet outage, or access to these sites has been blocked because of a government decree, or a nationwide Internet shutdown has been ordered by the government. Internet disruptions can take several forms, but end users experience the same problem across all of them – an inability to use the Internet to communicate and access content.

If, in the end, the end user experience is the same, why is it important to delineate between the various types of Internet disruptions? Proper delineation can help ensure that coverage and discussion of such events are technically accurate, driving the appropriate actions intended to mitigate or eliminate future disruptions, including policymaking, increased investment, and network infrastructure improvement. A greater understanding of the differences can also help civil society organizations, technical communities, and those affected respond to the disruption appropriately. Responses may range from an acknowledgement that a disruption occurred to increasing global awareness of the current situation to active organization of protests and identification of alternate methods of connectivity, but the response should be commensurate with the scope of the disruption.

Here are different types of disruptions, including why they occur and how they are implemented:

Internet Outages

Outages are arguably the most common type of Internet disruption, resulting from an unintentional or accidental disruption to Internet connectivity at a local, network provider, or national scale. The most frequent root causes of outages include physical damage to fiber/cable, severe weather, power outages, or routing misconfigurations. Outages may also occur as a result of DDoS attacks against core network infrastructure components. These events are generally transient in nature, lasting for minutes or hours.

Content Blocking

Content blocking is an intentional disruption of access to a specific site/application (e.g., Twitter, WhatsApp, Wikipedia) or set of sites/applications (e.g., messaging tools, social media). The blocking is often politically motivated, intended to limit the ability of citizen groups to organize protests, or to prevent dissemination of certain information. Access to other types of content (e-commerce sites, financial services, e-government, etc.) may remain available. There are several ways content blocking can be implemented, including blocking of specific IP addresses/prefixes, URLs, or protocols; filtering through deep packet inspection (DPI); search engine manipulation; or DNS modification. Internet Society Perspectives on Internet Content Blocking: An Overview includes more details.

Throttling

In the context of Internet disruptions, throttling is an intentional slowing of end-user Internet access. It is done with the intent of making the Internet effectively unusable for media and information consumption and sharing. Because Internet access remains available, throttling is harder to detect than other types of disruptions, especially since the impact can be hard to distinguish from network congestion. Throttling on mobile networks can be done by downgrading 3G and 4G connections to 2G, reducing speeds to well under 1 Mbps. Fixed network and application-level throttling can be achieved through the use of traffic management systems installed within a network provider’s infrastructure.

Sub-National Shutdown

Sub-National or localized shutdowns are an intentional disabling of fixed and/or mobile Internet connectivity (or general telecommunications services) around a venue (e.g., stadium), in a city, or at a state/regional level. These more targeted Internet disruptions are generally government directed, are often claimed to be for security reasons (e.g., to prevent remote detonation of explosives by cell phone), or are politically motivated to limit the ability of citizen groups to organize or prevent dissemination of certain information. The easiest way to implement such localized shutdowns of mobile or fixed connectivity is through configuration changes. These changes can effectively disable telecommunications services without having to power down or physically damage the underlying infrastructure, and can prevent the routing of Internet traffic to/from a local network provider. Sub-national shutdowns are often long-lived, lasting for weeks or months.

National Shutdown

A national shutdown is an intentional government-directed disconnection of Internet infrastructure, within a given country, from the global Internet. This is often done through central control of international connectivity. These nationwide Internet shutdowns are usually politically motivated, done to limit the ability of citizen groups to organize or to prevent dissemination of certain information. They have also been used in an attempt to prevent student cheating on national exams. In countries where connectivity to the global Internet relies on a state-controlled telecommunications provider, that provider can remove its entries from the global routing table and drop its connections with international network providers, effectively isolating it. This type of shutdown can be implemented almost immediately. In countries with greater Internet resiliency, each network provider with international connectivity would need to individually withdraw its routing information and drop its connections with international network providers. This type of shutdown could take several hours to implement. Depending on the underlying motivation, national shutdowns may last for a few hours or for multiple days.

What You Can Do

Read the updated Public Policy Brief on Internet Shutdowns, which highlights the impact of Internet shutdowns on local people, economy, and infrastructure and provides guidance to policymakers considering an Internet shutdown. Understanding the different types of Internet disruptions can make us strong advocates to help reduce the number of shutdowns and outages around the world. We become stronger advocates through more educated discourse, better informed solution development, and a greater ability to educate key constituents.

For more information on Internet shutdowns as they occur, please follow Internet Society partners including Netblocks (@netblocks), CAIDA IODA (@caida_ioda), and Oracle Internet Intelligence (@InternetIntel).

Keep the Internet on, and strong. Read the Internet Society Position on Internet Shutdowns.

Categories
Growing the Internet Human Rights

Sri Lanka Chapter Tackles Internet Restrictions and Cybersecurity Threats

Since its establishment nine years ago, the Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter has been a key stakeholder in ensuring a free, open, and safe Internet in Sri Lanka.

During the 2018 religious riots and the 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, when access to social media networks and messaging services was blocked, the Sri Lanka Chapter worked closely with government, media, academia, the private sector, and the general public to inform them about the impact of such restrictions on the Internet. In the aftermath of the 2018 religious riots, the Sri Lanka Chapter issued an appeal letter to the Presidential Secretariat on behalf of Internet Society members in Sri Lanka to lift the social media ban. Earlier this year, after the Easter bombings, the Sri Lanka Chapter organized an online meeting to engage in dialogue with different groups, including government and media agencies, informing them about the wide-ranging economic and social consequences of Internet restrictions, and raising the awareness that preventing online access is rarely an effective solution to conflicts and unrest.

In the attempt to control the spread of misinformation and hate speech, and cut off communications between organizers of attacks, the Internet restrictions also prevented people from connecting with their families and friends, and from accessing emergency aid in the aftermath of violence. Facebook-based volunteer groups and civil society organizations were not able to reach those in need of assistance and disseminate validated content. Businesses that relied on connectivity for sales and marketing were also negatively affected and suffered huge losses. The estimated economic cost of the partial Internet shutdown in Sri Lanka during 7-15 March 2018 was USD30 million.

Technical measures to restrict Internet access are rarely appropriate tools to fix social and political issues. Instead, dialogue, transparency, due judicial process, and openness should be the first steps to find solutions to complex issues, in a way that is inclusive of all stakeholders.

In May this year, the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology and the Computer Emergency Readiness Team and Co-ordination Centre (CERT|CC) invited the public to comment on a proposed Cybersecurity Bill – the first-ever draft bill released for public comment in Sri Lanka.

The objectives of the proposed Cybersecurity Bill are to:

  • Ensure the effective implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy in Sri Lanka
  • Prevent, mitigate, and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents effectively and efficiently
  • Establish the Cybersecurity Agency of Sri Lanka to strengthen the institutional framework for cybersecurity
  • Protect the critical information infrastructure

The Sri Lanka Chapter was invited by the Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology to review the draft Bill together with other stakeholders, including the Information and Communication Technology Agency and the Computer Society of Sri Lanka.

At the onset of the draft Bill’s release, the Sri Lanka Chapter requested: (1) an extension on the deadline for submission of comments to allow a thorough consultation process with different stakeholders; (2) translation of the draft Bill into local languages; and (3) creation of a multistakeholder community to review the draft Bill.

The Sri Lanka Chapter worked closely with the Ministry and CERT|CC to raise public awareness about the Cybersecurity Bill, and coordinate and collate public comments from individuals, organizations, policymakers, and political parties through a number of online and face-to-face meetings. During this process of consultation and discussion, we recognized a lack of technical policy experts available.

Nevertheless, the comments submitted by the Sri Lanka Chapter were taken positively. The main comments were related to the need to clearly define what constitutes “critical information infrastructure,” and the need to reconsider the establishment of multiple agencies responsible for cybersecurity to avoid function overlaps and inefficiencies in responding to cyberthreats. Minimizing the number of agencies was recommended. A review procedure for the role of the Cybersecurity Agency and civil organization representation in the Cybersecurity Agency were also recommended. 

On behalf of the Sri Lanka Chapter, I would like to express my gratitude to Internet Society members in Sri Lanka and globally for supporting us in these activities. We would also like to thank the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology and the Honourable Minister for making the proposed Cybersecurity Bill available for public comment. We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to continue safeguarding the free, open, and inclusive Internet for all.

Read the Internet Society’s policy brief on Internet Shutdowns.

Categories
Growing the Internet Human Rights

Internet Shutdowns cannot be a solution to political challenges in Chad

The Internet Society is concerned with the continuous disruptions of Internet and social media services in Chad in the month of April, 2018.

Internet shutdowns are not a solution to political and economic challenges.

Government ordered disruptions have been reported from 2nd of April 2018, in the context of political protests and unrest across the country.  This is not the first time Internet access has been suspended in Chad. In January 2018, the Internet was disrupted following demonstrations organized by civil society organizations. Again in 2016, Chad experienced an eight-month social media cutoff following controversial elections in 2016.

While we recognize that the Chadian government has a duty to maintain public order, there is little evidence on the benefits of shutdowns in preventing any sort of violent protests. On the other hand, there is growing evidence on the collateral damages resulting from taking people off the network.

One of these damages is economic. These disruptions have been estimated to have costed the country €18 million (approximately 13 billion CFA francs), according to Internet Without Borders. These are extremely conservative numbers that do not even take into account a set of cumulative economic factors.

Shutdowns also affect thousands of local entrepreneurs and professionals who rely on connectivity to work. Beyond immediate costs, an environment marked by frequent and arbitrary network blackouts shakes the trust that people have in the network as an infrastructure to build and support their economic activities. Long term ICT-led growth cannot be built if one doesn’t know if tomorrow will be connected or not.

At a time when governments of the world, including the Chadian government, have committed to leverage the power of the Internet and ICTs to reach the UN goals of Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 9c which seeks to significantly increase access to ICT and strive to provide universal and affordable access to Internet in the LDCs (least-developed countries) by 2020”, blanket restrictions of access set the path in the wrong direction. Internet shutdowns threaten these hopes, in particularly for a population that is the youngest in the world, and that needs access and connectivity to innovate and shape the future.

By cutting Internet access, the Chadian government is violating human rights and international law, in particular resolution A/HRC/32/L.20 of 2016 which strongly condemns Internet censorship. In addition, the government is violating Article 27 of the Chadian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.

In light of the impact of shutdowns on citizens’ fundamental rights, the economy and society as a whole, we call on the Chadian government to #KeepItOn  and to prioritize dialogue and peaceful solutions to address current challenges in the country.


Image credit: Flickr CC BY SA

Categories
Human Rights

Short-term Internet Shutdown in Bali Tied to Holiday

The Indonesian province of Bali has asked mobile providers to shut down customers’ access to the Internet during Nyepi, a Hindu holiday known as the Day of Silence.

Mobile Internet access will be cut off at 6 a.m. local time Saturday, March 17, and the island’s airport will also close for 24 hours during the New Year celebration. Other Internet access will be available during the holiday, the Bali government said.

Internet advocates oppose shutdowns, saying they can hurt local economies and endanger users who depend on connections to contact emergency and health services. Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion in 2015, according to a Brookings Institute study.

“In a globally connected world, social and economic freedoms depend on reliable access to the Internet,” Sally Shipman Wentworth, the Internet Society’s vice president of global policy development, wrote in Quartz recently. “The internet is the lifeline to the global economy and each shutdown contributes to a more divided world.”

Without Internet access, many business activities are also disrupted, she said. Digital payments can’t be made, contracts can’t be signed, and data in the cloud can’t be accessed.

Although the Internet outage in Bali is limited, it can create problems for people, said Zak Rogoff, campaign fellow for Access Now’s KeepItOn campaign, which tracks Internet shutdowns. Journalism, business, online education services, and web-based communications are among the activities that will be affected, he noted.

“Even a partial shutdown for apparently benign reasons has serious effects on freedom of expression, information, and association,” he said. “Though some Balinese may choose to refrain from these activities on Nyepi anyway, other people within Bali’s religiously diverse society will also be swept up in the shutdown.”

Internet outages during holidays and festivals are not confined to Bali, and they also happen regularly in Pakistan, India, and other countries, Rogoff said.

Shutdowns can weaken investor confidence in country economies, and “set a bad precedent which can be leaned on by governments to suppress political activity during elections or unrest,” Rogoff added.  “As connectivity and reliance on the Internet grows, so does their harmful impact.”

While the Bali shutdown is a limited one, several other countries have enforced long-term outages in recent months:

  • The government of India has repeatedly cut off Internet users, particularly in the disputed Kashmir region, where there were 19 shutdowns between mid-2016 and mid-2017.
  • Iran began blocking some Internet service on Dec. 30 to combat large-scale protests.
  • The Houthis, a northern insurgent group in Yemen, has shut down the Internet for short stretches, and it has also blocked some sites and throttled Internet speeds.
  • Access Now counted 61 shutdowns worldwide in the first three quarters of 2017. India, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria were the countries with the most shutdowns, with India the leader by far.

In Bali, many Hindus observe four prohibitions – no fire, travel, activity, or entertainment – during the Nyepi holiday. While Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, more than 80 percent of Bali residents are Hindu.

“Many Hindu people are addicted to gadgets,” the BBC quoted Hinduism Society head Gusti Ngurah Sudiana as saying. “I hope during Nyepi they can be introspective.”

Religious, civil, and law enforcement leaders asked the Bali government for the mobile Internet shutdown. This year is the first time the government approved the request, after denying it last year, the BBC reported.

Part of the reason for the shutdown request was to prevent tourists from taking selfies during the holiday, a representative of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, the country’s leading authority on Hinduism, told News.com.au.

In recent years, many governments are placing a greater emphasis on national security and political control than on personal data privacy. “The result is the mainstreaming of shutdowns,” Nicolas Seidler, senior policy adviser at the Internet Society, told the Daily Dot.


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Privacy Public Policy Shaping the Internet's Future

The Future of Journalism in the Internet Age: Watchdogs or Lapdogs?

Media watchdogs, increasingly criticized, threatened and attacked by corporate interests and global governments, are also among the prominent victims of falling public trust in the wake of the proliferation of so-called ‘fake’ news.

Despite some self-inflicted problems, such as those highlighted by the Leveson inquiry in the United Kingdom five years ago, news media and responsible journalism remain of critical importance to democracy.

The Internet Society’s 2017 Global Internet Report reveals how media is intricately entwined with society and it will become more so as more people and services go online. The Internet has grown from 400 million users in 2000 to 3.5 billion users today and as access expands further the media have countless new opportunities to increase their reach and better inform their audiences.

But “going online” also introduces unique challenges for the media. In the next five to seven years, the Internet will continue to fundamentally impact society and the media. According to Reporters without Borders, media freedom violations – impacting particularly anonymity, privacy and free expression – have increased by 14 percent in the past five years, for example.

As the Internet and news media become more converged, it is relatively easy to identify examples of measures restricting media freedoms under the guise of the conveniently vague ‘national’ or ‘public’ interest. Some governments have, for example, taken to restricting access to the Internet entirely or partially for their citizens, particularly during times of elections or potential political upheaval.

According to 2017’s Freedom on the Net Report, 19 of the 65 countries tracked had experienced at least one Internet shutdown during the past year. These so-called “Internet shutdowns” are generally done by governments in cooperation with the private sector (e.g. telecommunications companies) under the guise of ensuring national security or maintaining public order. But it also limits the media’s ability to report on matters of crucial importance to the public interest when it matters most.

Another example is the control of information through fake news stories, bot accounts and comments, and message framing and bias. Governments in 30 of the 65 countries monitored in the aforesaid Freedom on the Net report tried to control online discussions using such measures. Besides other concerns about misleading news, this phenomenon has also bred distrust in the media as a whole, undermining news business. At a time when information online proliferates but audiences’ attention spans stay the same, it therefore becomes increasingly difficult for credible news sources to survive in an attention economy.

A third example is governments’ tendency to clamp down on encryption measures designed to protect information, journalists and even their sources. In Brazil, for example, four different court orders have temporarily restricted access to WhatsApp, a messenger service provided by Facebook which provides end-to-end communication encryption. The service was blocked because their de facto end-to-end encryption does not enable them to respond to law enforcement requests, even if they had wanted to. This trend isn’t limited to platforms. News publications, too, have felt the brunt of governmental force when covering stories while using encryption services. In 2015, three Vice staff members in Turkey were charged with deliberately aiding an armed organization because one of the men was using an encryption system which is sometimes also used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for instance.

While the Internet provides many more opportunities for news media to better inform their audiences and fulfil their watchdog role, these examples illustrate that it can fundamentally endanger journalists and investigative media watchdogs that hold power to account. As noted in the Internet Society’s Global Internet Report 2017, “the future of the Internet is inextricably tied to people’s ability to trust it as a means to improve society, empower individuals and enable the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms.”

We need to ensure protective measures such as the right to encryption become more common, more accepted and more protected. The Internet Society is starting that journey with security toolkits and guidance on how and why to encrypt from organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Meanwhile, the Internet Engineering Task Force is working to make encryption common practice for domain name systems queries and emails.

These measures on their own may not be enough to protect the future of ethical journalism though. As stewards of the Internet, we must continue to band together with all stakeholders to find innovative ways to protect our watchdogs and their sources.

This article originally appeared on Ethical Journalism Network.

Categories
Economy Growing the Internet Human Rights

The Internet Society and NetBlocks Team up to Keep it on!

How much do government shutdowns cost? How do they impact growth and prosperity?

In 2016 Internet shutdowns cost globally about $2.4 billion USD, and across 10 African countries they led to loss of $237 million USD over 236 days.

If we don’t act now, shutdowns and restrictions of access will continue to rise and the economic cost will increase over the next few years. At a time where developing countries can benefit the most from Internet access for economic growth, education and health, we cannot let this situation become the new normal.

The economic rationale of keeping it on

The impact of shutdowns on freedom of expression and human rights is already well understood. Unfortunately, this has little effect in reversing the trend. This is why we need the ear of economic and trade Ministers, investors, development banks, and others who can ensure the Internet isn’t shut down. Because they care about the growth and prosperity the Internet can bring.

Today we are excited to announce that the Internet Society and NetBlocks are teaming up to develop a tool to better measure the cost of shutdowns, and convince governments to keep the Internet on. The Cost of Shutdowns Tool (COST) will be a data-driven online tool that will enable anyone – including journalists, researchers, advocates, policy makers, businesses, and many others – to quickly and easily estimate the economic cost of Internet disruptions. The tool will cover shutdowns affecting social media, key content platforms and full Internet blackouts. Development of this online and mobile platform has started, and we expect an early functioning platform to be available by summer 2018.

In Africa alone, we know that there is untapped potential for the Internet to enable much greater economic benefits and to create jobs across the continent. In the spirit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must make all efforts to leverage the Internet as a driver of opportunities, and minimize its restrictions.

This is the message we are conveying this week at the African Union Commission meeting in Addis Ababa.

Learn more about NetBlocks.org, a network observatory that monitors Internet shutdowns, network disruptions, and cybersecurity incidents and their relation to global politics and conflict in realtime.

Read the Internet Society’s statements on Internet shutdowns.

Categories
Growing the Internet Human Rights

ISOC Togo Chapter Calls On Togo Government to Restore Internet Access

Today our Internet Society chapter in Togo issued a statement (in French) calling on the government of Togo to restore Internet access. Reports in the media and from our own members there indicate that that the government has shut down Internet access in the wake of protests after their recent election. The president of our ISOC Togo Chapter alerted us today that the shutdown has now even extended to SMS text messages.

As Dawit Bekele, our Africa Regional Bureau Director, recently wrote, we do not believe Internet shutdowns are the solution for governments in Africa or anywhere in the world. In today’s connected world, network restrictions have wide-ranging economic and social consequences for all people.

We join with our chapters in calling on governments to end Internet shutdowns.

Please share our Togo chapter’s statement widely on social media – and help spread the word that we need to #KeepItOn

 

Update: Norbert Glakpe, the president / chair of the ISOC Togo Chapter, was interviewed on RFI Afrique this morning. His audio can be heard at the end of this article: Au Togo, nouvelle journée de mobilisation à l’appel de l’opposition


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Categories
Human Rights

Libraries Stand for the Internet’s Future and Join the Call to End Shutdowns

Human development cannot happen without inclusive access to information.

This, along with reading and applying knowledge helps us to make better decisions and to create and innovate.

The Internet has brought this much closer. It is easier to create, communicate, and collaborate than ever before. E-commerce has given us new markets, e-journals are allowing us to learn, and e-health is keeping us fit.

Libraries have seized the opportunity not only to promote online access to information, but to help their users get the best out of the Internet. The welcoming environment and targeted support that they offer is almost as important as the resources to which they provide access. Libraries are also key to improving levels of digital literacy.

Internet access is a prerequisite for achieving this mission. With information providers from the United Nations to local newspapers cutting back on physical printing, the possibility to get online is more essential than ever. Where connections are unreliable, or do not exist, people may even be in a worse position than before. Because of this, all 196 of the UN’s Member States endorsed giving everyone the possibility of Internet access in the 2030 Agenda.

It is therefore unacceptable that governments should use Internet shutdowns as a policy tool in any but the most exceptional circumstances. The collateral damage is simply too high.

  • For every student who is prevented from cheating, how many are prevented from studying?
  • For every misleading news story blocked, how many health websites are made unavailable?
  • For every protest disrupted, how many families and friends are unable to communicate?

And for every illicit business model shut down, how many startups and future investors will give up or move elsewhere?

On behalf of library users, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institution’s (IFLA) Statement on Internet Shutdowns calls on governments to reject Internet shutdowns in all but the most extreme situations. They are not only an attack on the work of libraries, but also on the principles they defend – free access to information and free expression. These principles are key foundations of trust in the Internet, enabling people to fully harness the benefits of the web for society, as echoed in the Internet Society’s own statement against Internet shutdowns.

Join us and the Internet Society in the call to shape tomorrow by keeping the Internet on.

Categories
Growing the Internet Human Rights

“The Internet is Home” – Youth voices on why we should keep the Internet on

Last year alone, the international digital rights advocacy organization Access Now recorded 56 Internet shutdowns worldwide. There’s concern about this growing trend and worry that governments are blocking social media and communications tools, in particular.

Many private sector and civil society organizations have condemned the shutdowns, and there have been dialogues and campaigns held around the world to try and prevent this growing trend. But while most of these dialogues are filled with decision-makers, legislators, and civil society organizations, young voices have been left out.

Many youth, who straddle the present and future, find it hard to imagine a world without the Internet. It’s how they connect with friends, family, and new audiences, and it’s how young entrepreneurs promote and communicate their brands. To youth, the Internet is everything.

At the June 2017 Africa Internet Summit held in Nairobi, the Internet Society reached out to a delegation of youth: students, lawyers, bloggers, and small business owners worked together to identify reasons to keep the Internet on.

One common theme was, “The Internet is home”…and we can’t shut the doors of our homes. “The Internet has become an integral part of our lives,” they said. They spoke about how it enables learning and collaboration – via research and connecting to other students. For many small business owners, the Internet is how they reach their customers and how they access services. Mobile money is widely integrated in theirs and many other businesses, and when the Internet is cut off, services that depend on mobile money are also cut off.

I had the privilege to attend the session, and listening to the conversations opened my mind to more perspectives and Internet uses than I had ever imagined. For these particular young people, it is clear that the Internet is very much integrated into how they think, work, and connect.

One takeaway was the need to shine the light on governments that kept the Internet accessible, even during life-threatening moments. Some African countries have faced security threats without shutting down the Internet. It’s important to learn from governments that #KeepItOn and share those lessons widely. Governments should prioritize other, more effective and sustainable means to address security or public order threats rather than resorting to shutting down the Internet.

One of my favorite analogies from the discussion was: “If a bank robber uses a road, do we demolish the road or do we find measures of making that road more secure?” It is good food for thought for any government considering an Internet shutdown in the future.

Categories
Growing the Internet

Internet Situation in Egypt

In June 2017, the Internet Society Egypt Chapter issued a statement in reaction to some of the recent blocking activities observed over the preceding months. Over this time, several incidents have caused unusual service disruption and have made access to some online applications and services much more difficult. This was followed by the blocking of a considerable number of websites in May 2017.

The Internet Society Egypt Chapter (Internet Masr) observes these developments with caution and calls “upon all Internet stakeholders in Egypt from service providers, government, private sector, and civil society to promote and maintain an open, and unfragmented Internet access for all”.

The full statement is available here.

Categories
Development Human Rights

Internet Shutdowns Are Not a Solution to Africa’s Challenges

Africa has made considerable gains with regards to the Internet in the last decades. It’s Internet penetration grew by more than 400%; its international bandwidth has been multiplied by 20 just in just 5 years between 2009 and 2014; during the same period Africa’s terrestrial backbone has doubled (Internet Society, Internet Development and Internet Governance in Africa, 2015). This achievement required considerable private and public investment and brought hope for Africans, particularly its youth.

Africa and the developing world are already collecting the dividends of its investment. For example, Kenya’s Internet economy is representing 3.6% of its GDP. More interestingly, a staggering 1.3% of the GDP growth in developing countries comes from the Internet economy (World Bank 2016 Digital Dividends, page 55). At the Regional Internet Development Dialogue held in Kigali on May 8 and 9, 2017, representatives of development organizations such as UNESCO, UNECA, and Smart Africa expressed their great hope that the Internet will contribute to help meet all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

However, all these hopes might be dashed by the increasing number of Internet shutdowns in Africa and the developing world in general. Just in 2016, there were at least 56 shutdowns of the Internet around the world, most of them in developing countries. These shutdowns affect individuals and organizations that depend on the Internet for their daily lives. At the “Keep it on” workshop in Nairobi at the African Internet Summit, around 30 young participants listed the reasonswhy no one should shut down the Internet and there were many.

Credit: Mwendwa Kivuva‏ on Twitter

The issue of Internet shutdown dominated this year’s African Internet Summit. In particular, one proposal submitted by three members of the AFRINIC community raised considerable discussions. The proposal recommended taking away IP numbers from governments that shutdown the Internet in their countries. For those who are not familiar with AFRINIC’s process, I would like to note that any individual member of AFRINIC can submit a policy proposal. I would also like to note that even if most members of the community are against Internet shutdowns, the proposal has not been supported by the community and in fact there were an unprecedented number of people who raised their voice against it, during the public discussions. And, I am confident that this proposal will never be adopted as an AFRINIC proposal.

In order to dissipate any confusion, at the closing of the African Internet Summit, the African Internet Technical organizations often referred as Af* (AFRINIC, AFTLD, AFNOG, AFREN, Africa CERT, and ISOC Africa) issued a statement distancing themselves from the proposal and in fact expressing their concern that such a proposal will be counterproductive.

So why did the Internet community refute such a proposal that is supposed to fight shutdowns?

  • such a proposal would be difficult to implement even if adopted
  • this proposal might antagonize governments at a time when we should work more with them
  • the proposal might also impact citizens’ ability to access the Internet

The Internet Society believes that the Internet community should work with governments to help them solve some of their legitimate concerns such as the use of the Internet for terrorism, exam cheating, and violence without the need to shut down the Internet. The Internet is the hope of many Africans, and more particularly its youth, and we should all work so that it is available for them all the time to create a better future for them and for Africa.


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Image credit: Marcin Wichary on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Categories
Blockchain Building Trust Events Growing the Internet Human Rights Improving Technical Security Internet of Things (IoT)

EuroDIG 2017: ISOC Speaks on Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Human Rights, IoT, Internet Shutdowns and more

How do we create a more secure and trusted Internet within the multistakeholder model of Internet governance? That will be among the many questions addressed this week at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) in Tallinn, Estonia. From June 5-7, we will have an Internet Society team on site participating in many sessions. Our EuroDIG 2017 page has all the details – including links to live video streams – but at a high level here are some of the workshops we are participating in:

  • Plenary panel on cybersecurity
  • New business models and the Internet
  • Blockchain technology and internet governance
  • Community connectivity: empowering the unconnected
  • Criminal justice on the Internet – identifying common solutions
  • Workshop on human rights and IoT
  • Internet content blocking: from collateral damages to better solutions
  • Stress testing the multistakeholder model in cybersecurity
  • Drowning in data – digital pollution, green IT, and sustainable access
  • Forced data localization and barriers to cross-border data flows: toward a multistakeholder approach

Again, view our EuroDIG 2017 event page to see exact times and live stream links.

To stay up on our activities, you can follow us on social media – and follow the hashtags #eurodig17 and #eurodig on Twitter.

Please do say hello to our staff in the sessions – and tell us how you think we need to work together to build a stronger Internet and #ShapeTomorrow.