Sri Lankan authorities instituted social media restrictions after several deadly bombings on Sunday — a tactic that specialists stated is increasingly more commonplace around the sector: the government-imposed net shutdown.
From Ethiopia and Venezuela to India and Iraq, authorities are halting the glide of online statistics in more numbers amid political turmoil, big-scale protests and different occasions, stated Jan Rydzak, a research student at Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator.
Since 2011, Rydzak has documented 400 to 450 instances of internet blackouts, he said. About a hundred and fifty of these shutdowns occurred remaining 12 months, lots of them in India, he said.
Governments use “a landscape of strategies to control information — that is simply one of the maximum flagrant manifestations of that,” Rydzak stated.
Officials in Sri Lanka said the blackout of Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and other services changed into a transient manner to stanch the spread of false statistics after the bombings.
This technique — even though it is once in a while pushed via extraordinary motives — become as soon as routine in international locations like Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, stated Alp Toker, executive director of Netblocks, a nonpartisan, non-governmental group that video display units net freedom.
“This kind of incident we’d’ve tracked up to 3 instances a month in 2016 and 2017,” he stated.
Then, Toker said, got here a “turning factor” — a series of coordinated bombings in Brussels that killed greater than 30 humans in 2016.
“The first responders used social media effectively to recognize what become going on, where it was going on and a way to counter the danger,” he said.
Some of these international locations seemed to take a word, and that they reduce down on publish-attack shutdowns, he stated. They additionally seemed to comprehend now not most effective how famous the services have been — and the way shutdowns ought to effortlessly cause a backlash — however additionally how governments ought to use them for their personal purposes.
“Authorities have the higher hand on social media,” Toker stated. “They’re the regulation. They additionally have to manage over social media businesses, and to a point, they could restriction content material they don’t trust.”
All of that has made the type of social media blackout underway in Sri Lanka ways less common than it became a few years ago, he stated.
But it is no longer as though it is unheard of. Three days earlier than the bombings in Sri Lanka, the nonpartisan non-governmental business enterprise NetBlocks documented restrictions on YouTube, Google packages and Bing in Venezuela. The blackouts occurred because the united states’ opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, became stay-streaming a meeting speech in Caracas.
While not as centered because the blackouts in Venezuela, the full-size majority of net shutdowns that Rydzak has documented over the past 8 years also appear to have been pushed by using political motives, he stated.
One of the primary such big-scale shutdowns came about in Egypt in 2011, while the authorities blocked the net for 3 days at some point of the Arab Spring rebellion, Rydzak stated.
Since then, other governments have embraced comparable procedures. In Ethiopia’s Oromia region, for instance, there were blackouts in 2016 amid deadly violence between anti-government protesters and safety forces. In Sudan, the government blocked the internet for weeks as protesters targeted then-President Omar al-Bashir, he said.
In nations like Sri Lanka, in which the government says it’s miles blockading social media get right of entry to to prevent misinformation that would lead to capability mob violence, the outcome can nonetheless be devastating, Rydzak said.
Governments “generally tend to say they are conducted as safety features, however, they honestly block get right of entry to to accurate statistics,” he said. “They may also be a method of concealing abuse via safety forces and non-nation actors.”
Nor is there evidence that shutdowns prevent incorrect information and violence, Rydzak stated. Toker added that such “vacuums” can even accelerate the spread of fake news.