Access Now


Violence and internet shutdowns in 2023: the worst year on record

This week, Access Now released our annual report on internet shutdowns worldwide — and it’s not good news. In 2023, we documented 283 shutdowns in 39 countries, the highest number of shutdowns in a single year since we began monitoring in 2016. “From Palestine to Myanmar, the goal was ultimate disruption, and authorities delivered — they hit the kill switch at precarious and frightening times, landing the biggest blows at the intersection of physical endangerment, mental anguish, and community desolation,” says Access Now’s Felicia Anthonio. Below, we unpack our findings in detail, exposing the devastating impact for people around the world. Read more via Access Now

The numbers don't lie

The most violent year: internet shutdowns in 2023

Among the most alarming findings: shutdowns increased by 41% from 2022, a figure that includes ongoing platform blocks that we added to our dataset this year. For the sixth year in a row, India led the global shame list, ordering the highest number of shutdowns globally (116), while Myanmar perpetrated at least 37 verified shutdowns and Iran at least 34. In conflict zones like Palestine and Ukraine and beyond, there were no fewer than 173 shutdowns corresponding to acts of violence — a 26% increase from the year before. Read the global snapshot

Why we’ve updated how we track internet shutdowns

We launched the Shutdown Optimization Tracker Project (STOP) to track internet shutdowns globally, using data points that go beyond technical information to document the myriad ways shutdowns impact people. But as the technical complexity, frequency, scope, and impact of internet shutdowns evolve, so too has the need to update how we monitor, measure, and map them. Read our short FAQ to learn how we updated our STOP methodology, and access the full dataset here. Read the community update

Conflict, crisis, and climate change

Conflict as the main catalyst

For the first time since 2016, conflicts emerged as the leading driver for internet shutdowns globally. From Palestine to Myanmar, from Sudan to Ukraine, warring parties shut down the internet at least 74 times in nine countries. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, as disruptions shrouded war crimes in digital darkness. In total, 51 shutdowns in 11 countries coincided with documented grave human rights abuses.

Protests, exams, elections still spurring shutdowns

In 2023, protests, school exams, and elections remained notable triggers for authorities to cut off the internet. We saw 63 protest-related shutdowns in 15 countries, nearly reaching the previous high of 65 cases from 2019. Meanwhile, we documented five election-related shutdowns (continuing a positive downward trend since 2019) and 12 exam-related shutdowns, in Algeria, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, and Syria. As exam season kicks off, with the world’s “biggest election year” well underway, we’re working with our #KeepitOn coalition partners to prevent and push back against any disruptions.

Climate change as a new factor

A new trigger is emerging: natural disasters. We saw four shutdowns in four countries (Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, and Türkiye) coincide with natural disasters — compounding people’s suffering by cutting them off from humanitarian aid, flood warnings, emergency services, and their loved ones. Given the ever-increasing number of extreme weather events due to the climate crisis, it’s imperative that governments prioritize connectivity as a vital lifeline — never deliberately severing it.

Read about the TRIGGERS

The old, the new, and the downright terrifying

(Re)offenders reach further

Since 2016, we’ve seen many of the same countries reach for the “kill switch” over and over. In 2023, repeat offenders frequently doubled down. Not only were there more recorded shutdowns, many perpetrators kept people in the dark longer: there were 35 shutdowns that persisted from 2023 into 2024, and people in 17 countries spent the entire year cut off. The geographic scope is also widening: 80 shutdowns impacted multiple regions or entire countries — the highest annual number of such disruptions in our records.

The deplatforming of platforms

Governments imposed or maintained 53 communications platform blocks across 25 countries. The most blocked platform? Facebook, which was blocked 23 times in 11 countries. This kind of shutdown disproportionately impacts already-marginalized people and communities around the world, as many rely on smart phones with social media platforms, messaging apps, and other tools to stay connected.

People at risk pay the price

Authorities in 10 countries blocked Grindr, the social networking app for gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. In countries across the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region, LGBTQ+ people already face a wide range of digital threats. Depriving them of safe online spaces deepens discrimination, isolates them from support networks, and places them at risk of further harm.

Learn about Platform Blocks

We won’t stop working to #KeepItOn

The push back

While the problem of internet shutdowns deepened in 2023, so too did our determination to fight back. Responding to pressure from the #KeepItOn coalition, three African countries with a history of shutdowns — the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone — made and kept commitments to keep people connected during elections. In addition, 39 global governments in the Freedom Online Coalition took a stand against election shutdowns. More recently, in March 2024, the African Commission on Peoples’ and Human Rights issued a statement condemning election-related shutdowns in Africa. Read about the victories

Join the battle to #KeepItOn

If 2023 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t back down in our efforts to safeguard internet access and defend people’s rights. In our report, we offer detailed guidance on how governments, international bodies, businesses, and civil society can take action to end internet shutdowns. Read our recommendations

One last thing

RightsCon 2025: an update on location and dates

We’re excited to share an important update: the 13th edition of RightsCon will now take place in Taipei, Taiwan and online from Monday, February 24 to Thursday, February 27, 2025. While we’d previously communicated our intention to hold the summit in South Korea, the context in which we were planning required a reassessment. To learn how and why we made this decision, check out the new post from the RightsCon team. Our timeline remains the same, so be sure to submit your session proposal by June 2. If you have any questions, you can reach out to [email protected]. We look forward to seeing you! Learn more via Access Now