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7 Sep 2020

Chris Baraniuk, VICE

Ranking Digital Rights study finds that use of internet shutdowns is ineffective at suppressing protests

"Internet shutdowns don't help authoritarians stop protects," 7 Sept 2020

In the last decade, regimes around the world have become more and more accustomed to flicking the switch on internet services, seemingly as a means of disrupting activists’ efforts to communicate and mobilise. But researchers are finding that, as in Belarus, the approach seldom seems to work. In fact, it may even backfire in some cases, sparking prolonged or more violent demonstrations.

“Rarely do we actually see a shutdown being followed by a complete drop-off in the number of protests,” says Jan Rydzak, a research analyst at Ranking Digital Rights...

...Rydzak and colleagues documented what happened to protest movements in African countries when governments launched internet shutdowns or censored parts of the web... The researchers were not able to show a causative effect, for example that shutdowns were always tied to aggravated demonstrations, but they found no evidence that they were effective measures of quelling uprisings either. [...] mobilised groups are likely to find innovative ways to adapt their communicative strategies when under duress.