Disconnected: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Network Disruptions (PDF)

The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is pleased to announce the release of a new report on government-mandated network disruptions.

Authored by former GNI Google policy fellow, Jan Rydzak, the report identifies over 100 instances of deliberate network disruption around the world in 2017. Counting daily disruptions in each country cumulatively, Rydzak finds that access to digital communication was disrupted on more than 2,500 days last year. The report presents a wealth of data relevant to both researchers and activists and encourages them to engage more broadly with different stakeholders.

Informed by interviews with a variety of experts and practitioners, Rydzak shines a light on the effects of network disruptions on marginalized ethnic groups, immigrants, women, and girls as he explores an alarming trend and its human rights’ impacts, particularly on vulnerable populations. The report offers an opportunity to start wider conversations about the unexplored ramifications of network disruptions on civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, in line with recommendations made by others, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.

Rydzak establishes network disruptions as both ineffective and prohibitively expensive. According to him, “the proliferation of shutdowns in stable democracies, such as India, is particularly concerning. India’s growing role as a regional economic power creates the risk that its approach to information control will be used as a petri dish by other developing countries, which may emulate India’s penchant for shutdowns unless such disruptions are proven ineffective.” In order to prove such ineffectiveness and combat network disruptions, Rydzak offers recommendations that focus on engaging with non-traditional actors and working across disciplines to bridge gaps in data collection.

GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg called the report: “An important effort in documenting the frequency and impact of network disruptions that should be followed by multistakeholder actions.”

Read more about GNI’s work on network disruptions here.