India leads the world in the number of internet shutdowns, with over 100 reported incidents in 2018 alone according to a report titled 'Freedom on the Net' by a US think tank. Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre, a legal services organisation, puts the number at 121 as of October 10, 2018.
An earlier report by IndiaSpend claimed that nearly 16,315 hours of internet shutdowns over six years till 2017 cost India $3.04 billion (Rs 213.36 billion).
Aggregated data collated by SFLC shows that there have been 233 reported instances of suspension of internet services in India in the last seven years. However, 73 per cent of these shutdowns have happened only in the last year and a half.
The SLFC report further stated that internet shutdowns go against the human rights of citizens and should call for further questioning on their purpose in the interest of transparency.
There are largely three different laws under which such orders are given by the governments. First is Section 144, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which allows the authorities to lay down guidelines to impose “temporary measures to maintain public tranquility.”
The 'Freedom on the Net' report offers a bleak perspective on the state of internet freedom across the world. Out of the 65 countries assessed, 26 are said to have experienced a deterioration. Almost half of all declines were related to elections.
The Indian government has been referred to as a poor custodian of privacy on the basis of several alleged breaches of the Aadhaar database.
The report also mentioned the recent spate of mob lynchings due to the spread of fake news. It states:
"Users in the state of Tamil Nadu shared a video showing a child being kidnapped by a masked motorcyclist on WhatsApp, along with an audio message warning that 200 “Hindi-speaking” child kidnappers were entering the state. The video was actually from a public-service announcement against child kidnapping in Karachi, Pakistan. Mobs killed at least two people and physically assaulted several others who were mistaken for kidnappers."