Network Disruptions

ICT companies face an increasing number of orders from governments around the world seeking to restrict access to services and disrupt networks. These blunt orders often occur during politically charged contexts, such as protests or elections, making non-compliance challenging and increasing their likely human rights impacts.

GNI believes such drastic measures almost always violate the principles of proportionality and necessity, and our framework helps companies push for greater transparency and accountability around such activities.

GNI’s positions on network disruptions are outlined in our seminal, 2016 statement on network restrictions. Building off of this statement, GNI has developed a one-page guide for policymakers on network disruptions – now available in twelve languages – which highlights the wide variety of harms that such disruptions can cause to human rights, economic activity, public safety and emergency services, among others. These concerns have only become more acute in the context of the pandemic, as emphasized in a 2020 statement. GNI has commissioned or otherwise released a series of research reports on the impacts of network disruptions. The report “The Economic Impact of Disruptions to Internet Connectivity,” from October 2016, sets out a framework for measuring the costs of shutdowns in terms of the daily gross domestic product lost in countries with varying levels of Internet connectivity. In “Disconnected: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Network Disruptions,” Jan Rydzak documented the full range of human rights impacts of network disruptions, in particular for vulnerable groups. In “Life Interrupted: Centering the Social Impacts of Network Disruptions in Advocacy in Africa,” Tomiwa Ilori interviewed victims of over 1144 days of network disruption in 11 African countries from 2011–2020, which informed his recommendations for advocacy strategies tailored to the region.

The Global Network Initiative Welcomes the “Declaration for the Future of the Internet”

April 29, 2022|feature, intermediary liability, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions, surveillance|

GNI welcomes the recent Declaration for the Future of the Internet, in particular the centrality of human rights and the emphasis placed on multistakeholder approaches. As a multistakeholder organization that has been working for over a dozen years to protect digital rights, GNI looks forward to continuing to engage with signatories and stakeholders, and will work to hold signatory nations to the principles laid out in this Declaration. Read more for the full statement.

GNI Statement on Protecting and Respecting Freedom of Expression and Privacy in the Context of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

March 18, 2022|feature, intermediary liability, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions, News|

GNI joins the broader global community in expressing shock, opprobrium, and deep dismay about the unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition to the physical attacks being perpetrated against Ukraine, the Russian government has taken active steps to undermine and restrict access to accurate information in Ukraine and Russia, as well as spreading disinformation and propaganda. GNI condemns all violations of the rights to freedom of expression unequivocally. Read more in our full statement.

New Report! Life Interrupted: Centering the Social Impacts of Network Disruptions in Advocacy in Africa

March 31, 2021|feature, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions, Publication, reports|

Authored by Tomiwa Ilori of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, the report surveys experts and practitioners from eleven countries in Africa where the Internet was disrupted for 1144 days total between 2011 and 2020.

GNI Statement of Concern on Proposed Cybersecurity Law in Myanmar

February 12, 2021|feature, intermediary liability, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions, surveillance|

Given the severe social, economic, and human rights consequences that the draft cybersecurity law is likely to have on both users and companies inside the country, GNI calls on the Myanmar military to withdraw and reconsider the law.

Concerns About Network Disruptions and Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

February 9, 2021|feature, intermediary liability, network disruptions|

We call on government authorities in Myanmar to immediately restore full network connectivity, reverse orders blocking social media sites, and refrain from issuing further orders or putting pressure on internet and telecommunications companies that contravene the country’s international human rights law commitments, including the freedom of opinion and expression and privacy.

Statement: Internet Shutdowns in Uganda Erode Citizens’ Enjoyment of Basic Human Rights

February 5, 2021|feature, issues highlight, network disruptions|

After the Internet was shut down ahead of the Jan 14 general elections in Uganda, ongoing disruptions targeting digital communications platforms continue, proving detrimental to information access and daily livelihoods, in addition to social, economic, educational, and political engagement. We encourage the government to restore access immediately.

GNI Letter to UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

October 30, 2020|feature, intermediary liability, Issues, issues highlight, Letter, media releases, network disruptions|

In a letter to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan, GNI raises concerns about ongoing restrictions on digital communications in Myanmar, including network disruptions, website blocking, and efforts by governmental actors to manipulate social media platforms.