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.