15 Countries Break Trust by Imposing Internet Restrictions Despite Pledges for Freedom

In our modern, interconnected society, the freedom of the internet is vital for promoting access to knowledge and safeguarding basic human rights. Unfortunately, despite assurances from governments, numerous countries persist in imposing limitations and even completely shutting down internet services. Surfshark, a provider of virtual private networks (VPNs), has conducted a recent study that exposes the countries that made promises to support internet freedom but ultimately failed to fulfill their obligations.

The evaluation centers around a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) that addresses human rights on the Internet and seeks to protect and advance these rights. Surfshark conducts an analysis to uncover the inconsistencies between countries' stated positions on the resolution and their actual practices regarding internet restrictions.

Among the 193 member states of the United Nations, a total of 15 countries failed to fulfill their commitments. These nations, which include India, Sudan, Pakistan, Cuba, Uzbekistan, and Russia, either imposed continuous internet restrictions or faced interruptions in internet access after expressing support for the UN HRC resolution in July 2021. The data obtained from Surfshark's Internet Shutdown Tracker underscores the contradiction between their stated intentions and their actual actions.

Interestingly, out of the 193 UN Member States, 111 countries took a passive stance, neither voting in favor nor sponsoring the resolution, while 78 countries actively supported the resolution through their votes or sponsorship. Four countries, including Cameroon, China, Eritrea, and Venezuela, chose to abstain from voting, casting doubts on their dedication to the human rights promotion online.

According to Surfshark's tracking data, it has been found that in the 15 countries that did not keep their promise, there have been at least 66 cases of internet disruptions caused by political conflicts since the resolution was adopted. Surprisingly, a significant majority of these cases (88%) involved the implementation of new restrictions that occurred after the resolution was passed.

India stands out as the country with the highest number of internet disruptions since the adoption of the resolution. Notably, India's ban on TikTok and other Chinese apps, implemented in June 2020, preceded the resolution but was still ongoing. However, numerous restrictions occurred after the resolution, indicating a disregard for the pledge made.

Sudan comes in a close second with a notable frequency of internet interruptions happening after the country expressed support for the resolution. The first internet disruption occurred due to a military coup in Sudan, and it was followed by ongoing armed conflicts among various military factions, leading to further incidents of internet disruptions.

In contrast, while the resolution was adopted, Nigeria and Ukraine already had existing restrictions in effect, but they did not introduce any additional limitations thereafter. Nigeria's ban on Twitter, which remained in place until January 2022, and Ukraine's ongoing blockage of popular Russian apps since 2017 serve as illustrations of these ongoing restrictions that were not intensified following the resolution's adoption.

Comparing countries' positions on the 2016 and 2021 resolutions, it is evident that some nations have changed their stance on promoting human rights on the Internet. China and Venezuela, both of which previously supported the 2016 resolution, abstained from voting on the 2021 resolution. China's ongoing internet restrictions on social media platforms since 2016 might have influenced its decision. Venezuela, with no recorded internet restrictions before 2019, witnessed a surge in disruptions during a presidential crisis, leading to its change in position.

Moreover, 27 countries transitioned from supporting the 2016 resolution to adopting a passive stance on the 2021 resolution, even though they had no recorded cases of internet restrictions. On the other hand, 20 countries shifted from a passive stance in 2016 to actively supporting the 2021 resolution. Notably, half of the countries that supported the 2021 resolution but imposed internet restrictions displayed this specific change in stance.

As internet freedom remains a fundamental human right, it is disheartening to see countries disregarding their commitments. To promote an open and accessible internet, it is crucial to raise awareness about violators and advocate for the protection of internet freedoms.

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