Government Internet Shutdowns Have Cost $52.8 Billion Since 2019

Deliberate internet outages around the world cost the global economy billions of dollars every year. Our internet shutdowns tracker measures the financial consequences in real-time, while annual reports provide historical data and analysis.
Cost of Internet Shutdowns report header illustration showing the global internet being unplugged

First published Jan 2, 2020. Last updated to include the latest internet shutdowns in 2024. Read the full 2023 annual report published on Jan 2, 2024.

Internet Shutdowns: Economic Impact 2019-2024

  • There have been 605 major internet shutdowns in 56 countries since 2019
  • $52.77 billion: total cost to the world economy of government internet outages over this period
  • 2024: 29 internet shutdowns in 16 countries cost $1.34 billion to date
    • 21,792 hours: total duration in 2024 to date of deliberate internet disruptions around the world
    • Myanmar: most affected nation this year to date ($775.8 million), followed by India and Sudan.
  • 2023: 196 internet shutdowns in 25 countries cost $9.01 billion
    • 79,238 hours: total duration in 2023 of deliberate internet disruptions around the world, up 18% vs 2022
    • Russia: most affected nation in 2022 ($4.02 billion), followed by Ethiopia and Iran.
  • 2022: 114 internet shutdowns in 23 countries cost $24.61 billion
    • 50,095 hours: total duration in 2022 of deliberate internet outages globally, up 45% vs 2021
    • Russia: most affected nation in 2022 ($21.59 billion), followed by Myanmar and Iran.
  • 2021: 51 internet shutdowns in 22 countries cost $5.62 billion
    • 34,595 hours: total duration of deliberate internet disruptions, 11% more than the year before.
    • Myanmar: most affected nation in 2021 ($2.8 billion), followed by Nigeria and India.
  • 2020: 93 internet shutdowns in 21 countries cost $4.01 billion
    • 27,165 hours: total duration of deliberate internet disruptions, up 42% from the previous year.
    • India: most affected nation in 2020 ($2.8 billion), followed by Belarus and Yemen.
  • 2019: 134 internet shutdowns in 22 countries cost $8.07 billion
    • 19,207 hours: total duration of deliberate internet outages
    • Iraq: most affected nation in 2019 ($2.3 billion), followed by Sudan and India.

What is the Cost of Internet Shutdowns Tracker?

This Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns index tracks the the total economic impact of every major deliberate internet outage and social media shutdown around the world as it happens.

This kind of deliberate disruption is internet censorship in its most extreme form. Not only do these internet outages infringe on citizens’ digital rights but they are also acts of economic self-harm.

The live tracker below shows the total cost of internet shutdowns for the year so far. Annual reports dating back to 2019 provide detailed analysis for each year.

Use the page navigation to jump to the relevant section to see a summary of that year’s key findings and a link to the full report. You can also use the following links to jump straight to those sections:

How Do We Calculate The Cost of Internet Shutdowns?

We monitor every national and region-wide internet outage and social media shutdown imposed by governments around the world in order to determine the duration and extent of the restrictions. This allows us to accurately calculate the economic impact of each internet shutdown using the COST tool.

This tool was developed by internet monitoring NGO Netblocks. It is based on indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and US Census.

In both our Cost of Internet Shutdowns live tracker and annual reports, we include social media shutdowns, internet blackouts and severe ISP throttling in our calculations. These types of disruption to normal internet access are defined as follows:

  • Internet blackouts: where internet access is completely cut off by the government. This extreme measure cannot be directly circumvented.
  • Social media shutdowns: where access to popular social media, such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter has been blocked. These can typically be circumvented by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Severe throttling: where speeds have been reduced to 2G, which permits the use of SMS and voice calls only. This is an internet blackout in all but name.

Why Are We Tracking The Cost of Internet Shutdowns?

We are staunchly opposed to internet censorship and governments withholding access to the internet as a form of social control.

Our goal in doing this work is to keep public attention focused on just how damaging internet shutdowns truly are. This damage is both direct, in terms of the economic and human cost, and indirect, in that it forces people to use unsafe VPNs to try to circumvent the restrictions imposed upon them.

We are also investigating the companies that provide the technology that make shutdowns possible, such as DNS filtering.

See our live tracker of VPN demand surges around the world

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2024 Tracker

The following data table shows all countries that have experienced a major internet shutdown to-date in 2024. The table is ordered from greatest to least economic impact, measured in USD.

The data table also indicates the nature of any additional human rights abuses perpetrated during each internet shutdown. A cross indicates that the human right specified was violated during the period around the internet outage.

For data on individual internet shutdowns, see the link to the Cost of Internet Shutdowns Tracker Data Sheet.

Internet Shutdowns Background 2024

Internet access remains heavily disrupted in numerous townships in north-west Myanmar for yet another year, despite efforts by local groups to bring them back online. Many of these internet shutdowns date back as far as 2021, while others were imposed in early 2022.

Although the accessibility of X (Twitter) in Myanmar continues to increase, it remains blocked around 30% of the time.

Our 2024 tracker only calculates the economic impact this year to date. Prior years’ data can be found in the relevant annual reports.

Regional authorities in India have imposed numerous restrictions around the country, with one of the most significant in the northern state of Haryana. Mobile internet access was restricted in seven districts across the region as farmers marched due to crop prices.

2024 is set to be a significant year for elections, as more than 50 countries go to the polls. In the opening weeks of the year, we have already seen a significant impact on free access to the internet.

Pakistan authorities cut internet access for 13 hours during the country’s general election in February. Social media was also periodically blocked in the run-up to the vote. X (Twitter) has been blocked in Pakistan since mid-February amid concerns over election fraud.

In Senegal, mobile internet access was cut in February due to anger over the postponement of elections. Authorities also blocked TikTok earlier in the year.

Internet access was cut for two days in January by authorities in Comoros, following demonstrations against the re-election of the president.

How Do Governments Shut Down The Internet?

Government internet outages typically take the form of total internet blackouts or social media blocks. Another censorship tactic is internet throttling, where internet speeds are restricted so severely that anything beyond simple text-based communication becomes impossible, such as live-streaming video of protests or human rights abuses.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use a number of methods to implement restrictions following government orders to do so. Some of the most common are below.

Network Shutdown

The most crude method of blocking access to the internet is when governments force ISPs and mobile carriers to literally power down critical circuits that make up the country’s telecommunications network.

Governments that have complete control over their country’s network may also install an “internet kill-switch”. The UN has condemned the use of such single shut-off mechanisms.

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) Manipulation

BGP is the protocol that manages the global routing system of the internet, which allows packets of data to travel from their source to their destination. It works via requiring every network node (known as an Autonomous System or AS) making up the global internet to constantly advertise which IP addresses it gives access to.

These announcements flash back and forth across the whole network, marking the route between any two points on that network, each of which is a cluster of IP addresses. This protocol is what makes it possible to access a website or app hosted in another location.

By manipulating the contents of these announcements, or BGP routing tables, an ISP can make the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of any number of its customers “disappear” from the internet, effectively cutting off access for those people. This is more precise than a full network shutdown and allows for exceptions to be made, such as for government officials.

IP Address Blocking

Websites and apps rely on web servers to host their content, each of which has its own IP address. This unique numerical address allows devices to find and communicate with each other.

ISPs can create lists of IP addresses that correspond with services they want to block and then block all internet traffic to or from those IP addresses.

As multiple websites and services can be hosted on a single IP address, this method of internet censorship often leads to unintentionally blocking more than was intended.

Domain Name System (DNS) Filtering

DNS filtering works in a similar way to IP blocking but is more precise as it targets the domain name rather than an IP address.

Information associated with domain names, such as top10vpn.com, are stored in a database distributed across multiple DNS Servers. Browsers rely on intermediate services, called DNS resolvers, to perform DNS lookups for specific domains against these databases, and retrieve the relevant destination IP address of the server, which then lets the browser communicate with the server that holds the desired URL.

ISPs can program these DNS resolvers to return incorrect information for particular DNS lookups, such as twitter.com not existing. When this happens, users are met with an error page instead of the website or app loading as normal.

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)

DPI examines the full contents of the data packets making up internet traffic on a network to allow for blocking of specific content or applications. DPI relies on devices between the end user and the rest of the internet, known as middleboxes and which form a key role in internet censorship in places like China. Manufacturers include companies like Huawei and Allot.

DPI is also very effective at throttling speeds for specific types of traffic, such as video or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

As a result, VPNs that actually work in China have to use technology like traffic obfuscation to bypass DPI.

Protocol Blocking

Targeting specific protocols, such as TCP/IP port number is another method for blocking or throttling certain apps associated with known TCP/IP ports.

Governments can use this method to target instant messaging services or email for example to prevent citizens from communicating.

How to Bypass An Internet Shutdown

It’s not possible to bypass a full internet blackout and actually get online in any normal way, however there are still countermeasures available to avoid becoming completely isolated.

Fortunately social media shutdowns and other online content blocks are far more common forms of internet censorship and can be circumvented using the right tools.

EXPERT TIP: In some countries, some of these tools might be outlawed, so it’s important to weigh up any legal risk before proceeding.

VPNs

A VPN works by encrypting a user’s internet connection and changing their IP address. Unless an ISP is able to block every single IP address used by a VPN service or identify VPN traffic and block it, then a VPN will allow a user to easily access sites and apps blocked using IP and DNS filtering.

Governments will often try to block VPN downloads during a social media shutdown. It’s therefore important for anyone living under such regimes to be prepared and download a trustworthy and reliable VPN that works in their country before an internet outage takes place.

Some internet shutdowns will also incorporate protocol blocking to prevent VPNs being used to circumvent them. VPN services that use obfuscation techniques, however, will still work.

Tor

Tor is a free, open-source system designed to enable anonymous communication on the web. The name comes from the original project name: “The Onion Router”. Like a VPN, Tor encrypts your activity and hides your IP address, enabling users to access blocked online services.

For a dissident in a high-censorship regime, the complete anonymity provided by Tor makes it worth the trade-off in terms of speed and usability. For everyone else, a VPN is the better option.

Signal

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are frequently affected when governments block social media, making it difficult for loved ones to communicate in countries where these platforms might be the only reliable method of personal communication.

Make sure that you and anyone you might need to contact during an internet outage has installed Signal, which has the added benefit of being more secure than other messaging platforms.

Bluetooth Mesh Networks

Protestors can turn to apps like Bridgefy and FireChat to communicate when governments cut off internet access completely during civil unrest. The apps create local peer-to-peer mesh networks that rely on Bluetooth rather than the internet to exchange messages and data.

Roaming SIM card

If a government internet shutdown appears likely and getting online is critical, it’s worth preparing ahead of time and acquiring international roaming SIM cards from a neighboring country. Foreign mobile carriers will not be affected by any outage and will allow you to get online, albeit at potentially significantly extra cost.

Sneakernet

A sneakernet refers to using human movement to physically deliver information between people affected by an internet outage, or even to smuggle data about what’s happening out of the country. Download and store important information on thumb drives or external hard drives, ideally encrypted using software such as Veracrypt, and give it to someone traveling to the location of your intended recipient.

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2023 Report

The Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2023 annual report was published on Jan 2 2024. This analysis of every major deliberate internet outage imposed by national governments in 2023 calculated their economic impact to be over $9.01 billion.

How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost Us in 2023?

  • $9.01 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2023
  • 196 major internet outages took place in 25 countries in 2023
  • 79,238 hours: total duration of major internet shutdowns around the world, up 58% from the previous year
  • 747 million people affected in 2023, up 5% year-on-year
  • Russia: had the most costly internet shutdowns, suffering a total loss of $4.02 billion

Read the full 2023 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2022 Report

The Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2022 annual report was published on Jan 3 2023. This analysis of every major deliberate internet outage imposed by national governments in 2022 calculated their economic impact to be over $24.61 billion.

How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost Us in 2022?

  • $24.61 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2022, up by 337% from 2021
  • 114 major internet outages took place in 23 countries in 2022
  • 50,095 hours: total duration of major internet shutdowns around the world, up 45% from the previous year
  • 710 million people affected in 2022, up 41% year-on-year
  • Russia: had the most costly internet shutdowns, suffering a total loss of $21.59 billion

Read the full 2022 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2021 Report

The Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2021 annual report was published on Jan 4 2022. This analysis of every major deliberate internet outage imposed by national governments in 2021 calculated their economic impact to be over $5.6 billion.

How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost Us in 2021?

  • $5.62 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2021, up by 40% from 2020
  • 51 major internet outages took place in 22 countries in 2021
  • 34,595 hours: total duration of major internet shutdowns around the world, up 11% from the previous year
  • 504 million people affected in 2021, up 88% year-on-year
  • Myanmar: had the most costly internet shutdowns, suffering a total loss of $2.8 billion

Read the full 2021 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2020 Report

The Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2020 annual report was published on Jan 4 2021. This analysis of every major government internet shutdown in 2020 revealed their economic impact on a world economy to be in excess of $4 billion.

How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost Us in 2020?

  • $4.01 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2020, down by 50% from 2019
  • 93 major internet outages took place in 21 countries in 2020
  • 27,165 hours: total duration of major internet shutdowns around the world, up 49% from the previous year
  • 268 million people affected in 2020, up 3% year-on-year
  • India: had the most costly internet shutdowns, suffering a total loss of $2.8 billion

Read the full 2020 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2019 Report

The 2019 Cost of Internet Shutdowns annual report was published on Jan 7 2020. The report analyzed for the first time every major intentional internet outage over the course of a year and calculated the global cost of shutdowns in 2019 to have been over $8 billion.

How Much Did Internet Shutdowns Cost Us in 2019?

  • $8.07 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2019 – an increase of 235% since 2015/16
  • 134 major internet shutdowns took place in 22 countries during 2019
  • 19,207 hours: total duration of major government internet outages around the world
  • Iraq: suffered the most economically from internet blackouts, followed by Sudan and India
  • WhatsApp: most-blocked platform, experiencing 7,044 total hours of government internet censorship

Read the full 2019 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Internet Shutdowns Research Methodology

We review every documented government internet outage and social media shutdown globally in a given year.

We include deliberate national internet blackouts along with regional disruptions that are on a sufficient scale to be economically significant.

The nature, duration and severity of each internet outage are sourced from Netblocks real-time graphic data and reports, IODA, the SFLC.IN Internet Shutdown Tracker, and OONI’s internet censorship measurement tools.

The economic cost of each internet shutdown is calculated using the Netblocks Cost of Shutdown Tool, which is based on the Brookings Institution method, with CIPESA’s specialized model used for sub-Saharan Africa. Regional shutdown costs are derived from the region’s economic output as a proportion of national GDP.

Partial internet outages are calculated as a proportion of the above costs based on the most up-to-date internet market-share information publicly available for the affected country.

Internet user data is sourced from the World Bank and government reports. For social media shutdowns, the total number of internet users in the affected location is cited rather than the number of local users of a specific platform. This is because such internet outages affects all internet users’ ability to access social media regardless of their active use of a particular platform.

The authors of all our investigations abide by the journalists’ code of conduct.

Additional research by Agatha Michalak