IGF 2022 WS #482 Internet Shutdowns: Diverse risks, challenges, and needs

Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (06:30 UTC) - Friday, 2nd December, 2022 (08:00 UTC)
Large Briefing Room

Organizer 1: Laura Schwartz-Henderson, Internews
Organizer 2: Chinmayi S K, The Bachchao Project
Organizer 3: Benjamin Whitehead, Internews

Speaker 1: Laura Schwartz-Henderson, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Chinmayi S K, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: DIAGNE El Hadji Daouda, Technical Community, African Group
Speaker 4: Miraj Chowdhury, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Laura Schwartz-Henderson, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

DIAGNE El Hadji Daouda, Technical Community, African Group


Benjamin Whitehead, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Round Table - U-shape - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. How can multistakeholder communities in countries that experience internet shutdowns develop multi-pronged strategies to resist shutdowns and push for more resilient networks? 2. What are the reasons governments are using internet shutdowns and interfering with networks in both democracies and autocracies? What are the situations that lead to increases in shutdowns ? 3. What are policy proposals and narratives that can push governments to take alternative approaches instead of shutting the internet?

Connection with previous Messages:


3. Good Health and Well-Being
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Targets: Internet shutdowns impact almost everything in a society and an economy. For this reason, we have selected several SDGs. This session will pull on quotes and data from the private sector (banking institutions, digital infrastructure providers, small e-businesses) to reflect on the impact of shutdowns on industry innovation and resilience infrastructure. Apart from the obvious economic impact that shutdowns have, the presentation will also discuss how disrupted internet impacts the ability to provide quality formal and informal education and distribute information, and how shutdowns are used during elections and protests to destabilize democracies and delegitimize governing institutions. We will also draw on the perspectives of health institutions to discuss how internet shutdowns not only prevent effective health delivery, but increased disinformation and rumor during Covid-19 and have widespread and deleterious mental health effects on those who experience them. Finally, internet shutdowns exacerbate digital and physical equalities both within and across countries, especially when it comes to the gendered digital divide.


The number of internet shutdowns have increased over the past few years. These shutdowns have led to no internet or reduced access to the internet for people across the globe. Over the past year, we have been working with multistakeholder coalitions in four countries (India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Senegal) to engage in a robust research process to better understand how civil society in each of these countries understand the risks of internet shutdowns, the tools and skills needed to prepare for shutdowns, and the strategic and legal avenues that exist to fight back against them. This research involved distributing surveys and interviewing diverse stakeholders and sectors of society impacted by shutdowns (digital rights activists, human rights organizations, womens’ rights groups, journalists, technologists, policymakers, small businesses reliant on the internet, and educational and health sector workers). We asked questions probing stakeholders’ assessment of risk and understanding about the technical and legal underpinnings of internet shutdowns, the impact of past shutdowns on human rights and economic development, and the skills and resource gaps that exist for these stakeholders to better fight back against network interference. From these surveys, we invited respondents to participate in collaborative national workshops to review the findings, collect additional insights, and collectively set an agenda to respond, build and translate needed resources, and set up ‘Prepare & Prevent’ networks working to measure censorship and shutdowns, distribute information on circumvention tools and strategies, and engage in longer term research and advocacy. Through this session, the authors will present the National Internet Shutdowns Needs Assessment Reports for India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Senegal and describe how we used this collaborative research process to build a diverse coalition of actors to join our ‘Prepare & Prevent’ networks in each country. We will also compare findings across these four diverse countries looking at common trends in these countries, extrapolating global insights and recommendations for the wider Internet Governance community on tackling this issue at the global level. We will also seek reflections and input from civil society and other stakeholders fighting internet shutdowns in other countries, and will share our methodologies for replicating this work in other countries. We also hope to have a discussion around strengthening civil society effort to push back on shutdown and discuss alternatives.

Expected Outcomes

Unfortunately, internet shutdowns are increasingly used by governments around the world, and we believe that localized community input and participation is vital to develop national multi stakeholder approaches to prevent shutdowns in the longer-term and to provide much-needed resources to targeted communities and at-risk populations.As part of the session, we will present the four published country reports, the cross-country comparative report, and describe the formation & development of the ‘Prepare & Prevent’ networks. We will invite participants to contribute to the ‘Prepare and Prevent’ networks in each of these four countries, and we will offer support to participants who would like to use our methodologies and engage in similar research processes in their own countries.

Hybrid Format: Considering that this session will begin with presentations from our four country teams, we will ensure that presentations are possible both remotely and in person, such that these speakers will be able to be received by anyone whether they are onsite or online. We will also encourage participation from speakers in locally organized meetings. These presentations will take up the first twenty minutes of the session. For the discussion-based second half of the session, in order to facilitate active debate without technical disruptions in both onsite and offline contexts, we will ensure that there are two discussion facilitators, one in an online discussion space and one onsite. The online discussion will take place on zoom, and one will be facilitated onsite. They will both receive the same question sets. We will then re-convene for a short presentation (online and onsite) of the main takeaways from the two discussion group’s conversations. Someone in the online group and the onsite group will be responsible to note-take and present to in-person and online audiences for the last 10 minutes. If there are community meetings happening in addition, we will have one representative from those meetings also present back to the entire group.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.