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18/08/2022
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Internet shutdowns: trends, causes, legal implications and impacts on a range of human rights

OHCHR

 

Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/50/55).
The present report is aimed at shedding much-needed light on the phenomenon of Internet shutdowns.


Geneva, June 21

Human Rights Council
Fiftieth session
Agenda items 2 and 3
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
Promotion and protection of all human rights,
civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development

Summary

In the present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 47/16, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights provides an overview of trends in Internet shutdowns. It contains an analysis of their causes and the legal implications and the impact on human rights thereof, the roles of companies, the existing efforts to promote Internet connectivity and provide development aid, and the relevance of such efforts for detecting, preventing and responding to shutdowns, as well as a set of recommended measures for ending shutdowns and minimizing their impact.

I. Introduction

1. Hospitals being unable to contact their doctors in cases of emergency, voters being deprived of information about candidates, handicraft makers being cut off from customers, and potentially facing imminent economic ruin, peaceful protesters who fall under violent attack being unable to call for help, students missing entrance exams for academic programmes and refugees being unable to access information on the risks that they face owing to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are just some of the situations confronted when an Internet and telecommunications services shutdown occurs. However, many Governments have ordered shutdowns, unaware of, or oblivious to, the harsh impacts that they can cause or calculating that the factors motivating the shutdown outweigh those harms. The dramatic real-life effects of shutdowns on the lives and human rights of millions of people are vastly underappreciated and deserve much greater attention from States, international organizations, businesses and civil society.

2. The present report is aimed at shedding much-needed light on the phenomenon of Internet shutdowns. It contains information on the circumstances in which they are carried out and their often unsettling consequences. It contains suggestions for reversing the current trend ...

[ Full report ]