Global internet freedom has continued to deteriorate for the 8th consecutive year in 2018, according to a report from Freedom House, an organization that tracks Internet freedom decline or incline each year.
The study explicitly states the governments are using terms like “fake news” and “hate speech” to consolidate their power over the Internet. And the situation is overly alarming in countries like India and Sri Lanka where government shuts downs the Internet in majors parts of the country, every now and then in the name of “public interest.”
“India leads the world in the number of internet shutdowns, with over 100 reported incidents in 2018 alone,” says the report, citing many temporary shutdowns of mobile internet and social media channels during mass protest’s, riots, and violence rooted from misinformation.
Throughout the year, India has been on the world’s radar for many Internet and privacy-related incidents; top-most being the numerous mob lynchings which have been reported to initiate from fake Whatsapp messages.
More than twenty-nine people in India have lost their lives, in 2018, because of false information. Whatsapp, used by the majority in the country, played a major role in the violence. Although, the Facebook-owned messaging service has now taken steps to curb the spread of fake news through many new tools.
In its report, Freedom House, condemning the steps taken by the Indian government, said, “By cutting off service during such incidents, governments often deny entire cities and provinces access to communication tools at a time when they may need them the most, whether to dispel rumors, check in with family members, or avoid dangerous areas.”
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Internet shutdown is one feeble method to create a “secure” environment. The other one is making strong policies to avoid such kind of incidents. Adhar Card is one such initiative where the Indian government has repeatedly failed in protecting user’s privacy. In one of many recent cases, a signification Aadhaar breach took place, leaving data of 1.1 billion people vulnerable to identity thieves and other malicious actors.