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.

“What Next for Advocacy Against Network Disruptions?” by Learning and Development Director David Sullivan

November 29, 2018|feature, Issues, issues highlight, network disruptions|

"We need to marshal a much broader movement, one including the media, labor unions, and a wider set of sectors, to demonstrate the consequences of government-ordered shutdowns and educate policymakers about alternatives." Read David Sullivan's reflections on the recent IGF session: "Tackling Internet Disruptions via Multi-stakeholder Advocacy."

New Report! Disconnected: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Network Disruptions

May 30, 2018|feature, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions, Publication, reports, Resources|

Authored by former policy fellow Jan Rydzak, the report presents a wealth of data relevant to both researchers and activists, including identifying over 100 instances of deliberate network disruption worldwide in 2017, and provides recommendations for all stakeholders to respond.

Disruptions of Social Media Platforms in Sri Lanka

March 8, 2018|feature, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions|

The Global Network Initiative is closely monitoring reports that access to social media and messaging platforms in Sri Lanka has been widely disrupted. These disruptions follow religious rioting and related violence and the imposition of a state of emergency. GNI recognizes the government of Sri Lanka’s duty [...]

GNI Welcomes Pakistan Court Decision on Network Disruptions

February 28, 2018|feature, Issues, issues highlight, media releases, network disruptions|

The Global Network Initiative welcomes Monday's decision by the Islamabad High Court declaring shutdowns of mobile networks on the pretext of security illegal throughout the country unless they are accompanied by a presidential proclamation of emergency. According to GNI Executive Director Judith Lichtenberg, “The Decision by the High [...]

GNI Condemns Network Disruptions Amidst Protests in Iran

January 10, 2018|feature, Issues, media releases, network disruptions|

The Global Network Initiative is deeply concerned about restrictions on internet and messaging services that occurred during recent nationwide protests in Iran. On December 31, 2017, Iranian authorities blocked access to the messaging service Telegram and photo-sharing service Instagram in order to “maintain peace,” according [...]

The Consequences of Network Shutdowns and Service Disruptions: A One-page Guide for Policymakers

July 18, 2017|Issues, media releases, network disruptions, Publication|

The Global Network Initiative today launched “Weighing the Impact of Network Shutdowns and Service Restrictions — Considerations for Policymakers,” a one-page guide aimed at governments who may consider mandating disruptions of communications networks services and online platforms. The one-page guide is available in Amharic, [...]

GNI Co-Hosts Network Disruptions Learning Call with Freedom Online Coalition and Access Now

July 7, 2017|Issues, media releases, network disruptions|

On 27 June, the Global Network Initiative Now co-hosted a learning call on government-sponsored intentional network disruptions alongside the Freedom Online Coalition and AccessNow. GNI sought feedback on our one-page brief, “Weighing the Impact of Network Shutdowns and Service Restrictions,” to be launched next week. We [...]

GNI Welcomes UN Expert’s Report on Free Expression and the Digital Access Industry

June 13, 2017|Issues, media releases, network disruptions, surveillance|

The Global Network Initiative welcomes the 2017 report to the UN Human Rights Council presented by UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. The report is a timely warning on the escalating threats to digital expression and Internet freedom, including increasing [...]