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29 Mar 2022

Internet shutdowns in Africa: Addressing the human rights responsibilities of telecoms companies

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Internet shutdowns are a growing and pernicious problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ordered by states to telecommunications companies, internet shutdowns infringe on the right to freedom of expression, disrupt online services and create losses for telecoms companies. Incidents are on the rise, despite growing authoritative guidance that internet shutdowns infringe on international human rights law.

Some telecoms companies are taking positive steps to respect human rights in the context of internet shutdowns. This briefing demonstrates they could do more to meet their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We urge telecoms companies to take steps to mitigate harm to individuals and communities affected by internet shutdowns. These include adopting human rights policies which commit to upholding the rights of users or customers, enhancing transparency on requests by governments for internet shutdowns, negotiating human rights compliant licensing agreements, and adopting effective and efficient remedial processes.

Technology & Human Rights

Explore resources, news and guidance on human rights in the technology industry