Why should you worry more about internet shutdowns
Any time you see a government – or a group, in the case of the Taliban – expressing autocratic, authoritarian, and repressive views, it follows that they can do what they say they want to do, which restricts access to information and communication. I am very concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. Making sure the people there have access to information, the ability to communicate, and the ability to get the news is important.
How sophisticated would someone be to make one of these closures? Can anyone with a meaningful level of restraint on internet infrastructures participate in these activities?
You are right to point out that the manner in which closures are stopped is always related to how much government control over telecommunications infrastructures in a given country. And that’s different: country by country is different, and it’s different over time.
One of the things we have observed, and reported it well by others, is that many governments are considering laws that will increase their restrictions on telecommunications infrastructures. That’s part of three simultaneous trends. First, there is an increasing frequency of internet shutdowns. Second, you get more attention from governments on how they control the telecommunication infrastructures in their countries. And you’ve also seen a decline in democracy around the world, and an increase in autocratic governments empowering civil society.
What is the real danger?
Certainly this is more of a hassle. It is a matter of life and death in some cases. It’s certainly something of a lost livelihood-in a socially restricted society, access to information is restricted, and freedom of expression is restricted. I think while more people are living their lives online and as democratic institutions increasingly rely on the internet as a way to facilitate civic participation-to share news and information, for people to talk to each other, and for people to organize-the risk of a government shutting down the internet brings increased costs.
Intentional internet shutdowns
Jan 2020 – May 2021
What can this do for the average citizen who uses the internet? What can we do to better recognize when this is happening and avoid it?
Great confidence in your situation. There are a number of tools that can allow you to access the internet for free and open-for example virtual private networks (VPNs). There are specific tools that allow you to protect yourself from certain types of censorship. DNS poisoning is a common form of censorship in which a government manipulates individual URLs. We have a tool called Intra (and there are other tools, too) that protects users and allows them to avoid restrictions.