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India Farmers’ Protests: Internet Shutdown Highlights Modi’s Record of Stifling Digital Dissent

– The Conversation

In response to the farmers' protests in India, Delhi police shut down the city’s internet, affecting more than 52 million people

India’s internet crackdown to quell protest movements is a strategy that has been in use since 2017, when laws were passed which expanded the government’s empowerment for surveillance and connectivity suspension, to control dissent and opposition.

“While India ranks second in the world in terms of mobile internet subscribers, the country also leads in shutdowns. They’re used with alarming regularity to disrupt protest movements and – in the case of Kashmir, currently under the world’s longest internet shutdown – to control entire populations.”

The article also highlights the issue of India’s ‘disinformation ecosystem’ where mobile internet packages favor traffic to certain websites over others, which can lead to support for the state’s crackdowns on dissent. Meanwhile, India’s activists' ability to use the digital space to achieve their objectives, including live-streaming on social media of alleged police brutality, is often nullified by the state’s common default to full internet shutdowns.

Beyond signalling the authoritarian drift of the “world’s largest democracy”, India’s internet shutdowns are also expensive affairs. Even as Modi promises to build a “digital India” to boost the country’s economy, his internet shutdowns are costing India US$2.8 billion (£2 billion) a year – which equates to 70% of the global cost of shutting off the internet in 2020

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