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World Socialist Website - December 27, 2019

"CSIS analyst Samuel Brannen wrote: “This awakening has been amplified by the digital information age with more than half of the planet—4 billion people—now connected to the internet. Facebook alone counts 2.4 billion active users. And among the most popular topics for users is politics…. And the ways in which people can connect locally and globally and draw comparisons and inspiration from events elsewhere is unmatched. The ability for individuals to connect, to inspire and coordinate millions onto the streets is without precedent.”

Amid a global upsurge of political protests and strikes, governments all over the world are shutting down the internet in desperate bids to stem the tide of popular opposition.

According to preliminary data from Access Now, 2019 likely saw more deliberate internet shutdowns than any other previous year. More than a quarter of the world’s countries have shut down the internet over in past four years.

At least 29 countries carried out deliberate internet shutdowns in 2019, including India, Sri Lanka, Russia, Sudan, Indonesia and Iraq.

Since the 2011 uprising in Tunisia, dubbed a “WikiLeaks revolution” after the organization released information on the corruption of the country’s ruling class, governments have increasingly seen the internet as a threat, used by masses of people to organize strikes, protests and demonstrations. In recent months, workers and young people have used social media to organize mass demonstrations in Chile, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Ecuador, Honduras, Haiti, Egypt and Algeria.

Last week, police authorities in India shut down internet access in sections of New Delhi in response to a wave of popular protests against the Modi government’s Hindu supremacist citizenship law.

The Modi government has responded to the demonstrations, which have mobilized broad sections of the population across ethnic and sectarian lines, with a crackdown that has taken the lives of dozens of people and the imposition of effective martial law in broad sections of the country.

India has shut down the internet more than 104 times this year, up from six times in 2014. The most notorious of these actions is the ongoing internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, which has now lasted 135 days, the longest ever in any country officially called a “democracy.”

The ongoing internet shutdown in the Kashmir Valley now affects over seven million people, making the most routine aspects of life—from communicating with distant family to applying for a job—next to impossible.

The Kashmir shutdown was aimed at quelling opposition to the illegal abrogation of the semi-autonomous status of India’s lone Muslim-majority state. This constitutional coup has been enforced by the deployment of tens of thousands of additional security forces and the detention without charge of thousands.

In its latest annual report, Access Now pointed out that governments routinely lie about their motives in carrying out internet shutdowns. “[W]hen governments shut down the internet citing ‘public safety,’ it is often evident to observers that, in reality, authorities may fear protests and cut off access to the internet to limit people’s ability to organize and express themselves, whether online or off.”

It adds, “When authorities cite ‘fake news,’ rumors, or hate speech,” they are in fact most often seeking to curtail protests and control elections. “Using these threats as scapegoats, it appears that governments are leveraging shutdowns to shape the political narrative and control the flow of information. ...
Read full report at World Socialist Website