The Punjab government recently shut down internet services for 24 hours and then continuing extending it, primarily to stop rumours and misinformation. “But such shutdowns also affect livelihoods, education, even health services. They are not justifiable under any circumstances,” says Namrata Maheshwari in this podcast discussion with Sidharth Bhatia.
Maheshwari works on issues such as, surveillance, data protection and internet shutdowns for Access Now, an international organisation working on digital rights.
She says the process of shutting down the internet is very opaque. “We don’t even know or see the orders under which such shutdowns are ordered.” Even the police can order a temporary ban on internet services. There is total lack of accountability, she says, and impunity.
What is more, the efficacy of such shutdowns is questionable. “There are studies that show that they could increase violence and misinformation.” But she says people and lawmakers are realising that such suspension of services are harmful. “There is a push for a change.”