India-held Kashmir sees most internet outages globally in 2022 – World

India-held Kashmir sees most internet outages globally in 2022 – World

RESIDENTS of Indian-held Kashmir experienced more internet shutdowns and restrictions in 2022 than any other region, including Iran and Russia, according to a new report.

According to Surfshark, a virtual private network company headquartered in Lithuania, more than a fifth of all web outages occurred in Kashmir, the Voice of America reported.

The VPN company’s Global Internet Censorship 2022 Report – released in mid-January – found that 32 countries were hit by a total of 112 restrictions. Almost all came during times of protest or unrest.

Indian-held Kashmir is ranked next to Russia – where Moscow has moved to reduce access to social media and news amid its incursion into Ukraine; Iran, where blocs came amid mass protests that began in September; and India, where Surfshark has documented service cuts during times of unrest.

Overall, Asia led the world in internet outages, accounting for 47 percent of all global cases. An estimated 4.2 billion people experienced internet censorship throughout the year, Surfshark found.

Surfshark’s Internet Censorship Tracker analyzes reports from the news media and digital rights organizations such as Netblocks and Access Now, and collects data from social media companies to document cases.

Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, spokesperson for Surfshark, told VOA that in occupied Kashmir in 2022, the internet was shut down for a total of 456 hours. “All were cases of complete internet restrictions at the local level,” she said.

Indian-administered Kashmir has frequently restricted and blocked the internet since 2019, when Indian authorities revoked the region’s special autonomous status.

Data from the home department of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir shows that 49 internet suspension orders were issued last year.

Authorities said the blocks were meant to prevent the spread of “misinformation and maintain public order” in the wake of security-related incidents and political unrest in Kashmir, VOA said.

But local journalists and analysts said the blocks were also being used to prevent critical reporting in the region.

In its 2022 report Suspension of Telecom/Internet Services and its Impact, India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said that guidelines on internet blocks should be established and noted that currently no database exists in the country to track such orders .

Published in Dawn, February 12, 2023

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