Government Internet Shutdowns Cost $5.5 Billion in 2021

Our annual report analyzes every major intentional internet shutdown in 2021 and reveals that they cost a world economy still suffering under a pandemic a further $5.5 billion.
Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns header image showing Myanmar protests

UPDATED Jan 13 2022 to include the latest 2022 data on Kazakhstan and Nigeria. Additionally, the full 2021 report is now published.

Internet Shutdowns: Economic Impact 2021

  • $5.45 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns in 2021, up 36% from 2020
  • 50 major internet outages took place in 21 countries
  • 30,179 hours of government internet disruptions
    • Internet blackouts: 16,574 hours
    • Internet throttling: 840 hours
    • Social media blocks: 12,766 hours
  • 486.2 million people affected by deliberate internet outages in 2021, up 80% year-on-year
  • Twitter: the most blocked social media platform, suffering 12,379 hours of deliberate disruption – over 60% more than Facebook.
  • Myanmar: the single most affected nation ($2.8 billion), followed by Nigeria ($1.45 billion) and India ($583 million).
  • Human rights impact: 75% of government internet outages were associated with additional human rights abuses, an increase of almost 80% compared with 2020:
    • 69% of all internet disruptions were also associated with restrictions on freedom of assembly
    • 29% with election interference
    • 29% with infringements on freedom of the press
  • There have been 265 major internet shutdowns in 46 countries since 2019
  • $17.5 billion: total cost to the world economy due to government internet outages since 2019
  • 2020: 93 internet shutdowns in 21 countries lasting 27,165 hours cost $4.01 billion. India imposed the most costly internet outages overall ($2.8 billion).
  • 2019: 122 internet shutdowns in 21 countries lasting 18,255 hours cost $8.05 billion. Iraq’s internet outages were most costly ($2.3 billion).

What is the Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report?

This Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns report calculates the total economic impact of every major deliberate internet outage and social media shutdown around the world in 2021.

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 data table below shows the country-by-country breakdown of the global cost of internet shutdowns in 2021.

Government internet outages in 21 countries lasting over 30,000 hours cost the global economy $5.45 billion in 2021, a 36% increase in impact compared to 2020.

Our annual reports dating back to 2019 also provide detailed analysis for previous years. 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:

From 2020 onwards, our internet shutdowns data includes additional human rights abuses perpetrated during these disruptions. We have highlighted these abuses in order to illustrate the wider context in which these incidents of extreme internet censorship take place.

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 and advocacy groups The Internet Society and CIPESA. It is based on indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and US Census.

In our Cost of Internet Shutdowns 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.

We will continue to monitor the impact of deliberate government internet outages throughout 2022 and update this page with a live tracker as soon as major new incidents take place.

2022 UPDATE: The Kazakhstan authorities have cut internet access as they try to quell anti-government protests engulfing the country. By January 11, the internet disruptions had cost over $429 million.

Why Are We Tracking The Cost of Internet Shutdowns?

We are fiercely 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

Internet Shutdowns 2021: Cost by Country

The following data table shows all countries that have experienced a major internet shutdown in 2021. 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 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Tracker Data Sheet.

Internet Shutdowns 2021: Cost by Region

The following data table shows the total economic cost of all major internet shutdowns in 2021 broken down by the global region where the disruptions occurred. The data table is ordered from greatest to least economic impact, measured in USD.

Internet Shutdowns 2021: Cost by Context

The following data table shows the total economic cost of all major internet shutdowns in 2021 grouped by context, i.e. the nature of what prompted local authorities to cut internet access. The data table is ordered from greatest to least economic impact, measured in USD.

The data table also indicates the number of incidents in each category and the total duration of deliberate internet outages in hours.

Most Blocked Social Media Platform in 2021

The following data table shows the length of time each social media platform was blocked in 2021. The data table is ordered from greatest to least number of hours. Note the total number of hours exceeds the total duration of social media shutdowns as multiple platforms are typically blocked in each outage.

The data table also indicates the number of incidents affecting each social media platform.

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 what 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.

Domain names, such as top10vpn.com, and what they refer to are stored in a database distributed across multiple DNS servers. Browsers rely on intermediate devices called DNS resolvers to perform DNS lookups for specific URLs in these databases and retrieve the relevant destination IP address.

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.

Internet Shutdowns Background 2021

Countries with Internet Shutdown Costs Over $500 Million

Myanmar

  • Internet blackout: 5,637 hours
  • Social media shutdown: 6,601 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $2.78 billion
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly, election interference, freedom of press

The most severe internet outages in 2021 were in Myanmar, following nationwide protests over a military coup in February. After an initial internet blackout, the ruling military junta blocked access to Facebook in the wake of the coup in order to “maintain stability”.[1]

Demand for VPN services immediately skyrocketed by 7,200% as protestors sought to regain access to Facebook, which had been central in organizing the civil resistance to the coup.

Rolling internet restrictions followed across Myanmar. The junta blocked social media during the day and completely shut down all internet access each night for 72 consecutive nights until 27 April.

Mobile internet in Myanmar was cut completely in March while wireless internet access was cut in April 1.[2] Internet access was partially restored after these outages at the end of May but has been limited since then to government-approved websites and mobile apps only.[3] Facebook and Twitter are not on the offical “allowlist” and access has only been possible via VPN since then, according to local sources.

The death toll from the crackdown on dissent surpassed 1,000 in August, as national unrest carried on throughout the year.[4]

The junta has also shut down internet access, along with phones, in 30 townships in the Kachin, Chin, Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions since late August and September, as fighting intensified between the military and the People’s Defence Force militias in those areas.

Nigeria

  • Social media shutdown: 5,040 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $1.45 billion

The Nigerian government blocked access to Twitter in June.[5] The initially indefinite ban followed Twitter’s removal of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that was in breach of the social media platform’s rules.[6]

Demand for VPN services soared by 1,409% as citizens sought to bypass the social media restrictions. The surging interest in VPN services defied threats by the Nigerian attorney general to prosecute those who ignored the Twitter ban.[7]

In October, the Nigerian government announced Twitter access would be restored restored after 122 days, on condition that the platform was used for business and positive engagements”.[8] However these conditions had still not been met by the end of the year.

The Twitter ban was finally actually lifted after 222 days on January 12 2022, with a total cost of $1.54 billion to the Nigerian economy.

India

  • Internet blackout: 317.5 hours
  • Bandwidth throttling: 840 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $582.8 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly, election interference, freedom of press

The Indian government again imposed more costly internet outages than almost any other nation. The biggest economic hit came from throttling internet speeds in Kashmir, where authorities finally restored normal internet access in February after 18 months.[9]

The intentional slowdown to 2G speeds rendered the internet in Kashmir functionally near-useless, causing education and business to suffer during a pandemic that made everyone more dependent on reliable internet access.[10]

In late January, the government imposed a costly localized internet blackout in Delhi in response to the large-scale farmers’ protest. Reports that police fired teargas and savagely beat protesters circulated despite the internet outage.[11]

Other incidents of internet blackouts again revolved around controlling the flow of information online in Kashmir, after the death of a prominent separatist leader.[12] Rajasthan’s internet was shut down in September to prevent exam cheating.[13]

Countries with Internet Shutdown Costs Of $100 – $500 Million

Ethiopia

  • Internet blackout: 8,760 hours
  • Social media shutdowns: 104 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $164.5 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

The ongoing internet blackout in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been used as a weapon to control information since the onset of a vicious civil war that has ravaged the region for over a year.[14]

Despite the communications blackout, evidence of mass rape and the massacre of scores of civilians has been brought to light.[15] Reports of Ethiopian journalists being arrested on “alleged media related offences” have also emerged.[16]

The government blocked access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram nationwide in May. Another social media block following the leak of exam papers online led to a 5,109% surge in demand for VPN services.

Sudan

  • Internet blackout: 605 hours
  • Social media shutdowns: 172 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $157.4 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly & freedom of press

The Sudan government imposed a series of severe internet outages in October that lasted until late November. Authorities first briefly blocked social media on October 15 as thousands of demonstrators called for the military to seize power from long-standing President Omar al-Bashir.[17]

An unusually long full internet shutdown followed, as part of a total communications blackout, from October 25. Internet access was finally restored on November 18. Authorities continued to block social media for a further week.[18]

The internet blackout failed to prevent the eventual emergence of video footage of security personnel detaining and using lethal force against pro-democracy protesters and journalists. The violence resulted in an estimate of 200 people being injured, many of which had gunshot wounds.[19]

Authorities cut mobile internet access on Christmas Day and on December 30, ahead of planned pro-democracy protests in Khartoum. The ensuing security crackdown led to the deaths of five protestors.

Earlier in the year, Sudan’s education authorities blocked mobile internet access in June during national exams for a second year running.

Uganda

  • Internet blackout: 118 hours
  • Social media shutdowns: 573.5 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $109.7 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly & election interference

The Ugandan government imposed an internet blackout a day before polls opened for the presidential elections in January after blocking social media, including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, two days earlier.[21]

VPN demand surged by 1,343%, during the social media restrictions as Ugandans tried to bypass the government censorship.

Internet access was restored on January 18, however social media remained blocked until February 10.

The internet outages aimed to prevent the spread of details of the bloody government crackdown on critics of President Musevini’s 35-year-reign. At least 54 people were killed and opposition leader Bobi Wine was detained multiple times prior to polling day, amid accusations of government vote-rigging.[22][23]

Countries with Internet Shutdown Costs Of $10 – $100 million

Bangladesh

  • Internet blackout: 12 hours
  • Social media shutdowns: 48 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $49.7 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

Authorities blocked access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger in March amid protests over a state visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[24] We recorded a spike in demand for VPN services by 738% as Bangladeshis sought to circumvent the social media block.

At least 10 people died during the protests, as Islamist groups denounced Modi’s Hindu nationalist party for its discrimination against minorities, particularly Muslims.[25]

The Bangladesh government cut mobile internet access in October, after a series of attacks on sites of worship took place across the country.[26]

Burkina Faso

  • Internet blackout: 192 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $35.9 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

Burkina Faso authorities shut down mobile internet access for over a week in late November, citing legal requirements for “national defense” and “public safety”. The internet outage was imposed amid heightened social unrest sparked by the shooting of protesters by a French military convoy en route to Niger.[27]

The protests were against France’s military involvement in Burkina Faso’s ongoing battle against jihadist insurgencies, as part of a larger issue of the government’s failing security policies.[28]

Cuba

  • Internet blackout: 8 hours
  • Social media shutdowns: 168 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $33.1 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly & freedom of press

The Cuban authorities imposed nationwide internet outages intermittently during July following the largest anti-government protests in Cuba for decades. This included blocking access to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.[29]

More than 100 protesters were arrested during the protests, including independent journalists. Thousands took to the streets in anger over economic collapse, food and medicine insecurity as well as the government’s mismanagement of Covid-19.[30]

Cuba’s president defended cutting internet access, blaming the U.S. for inciting social unrest through a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SOSCuba.[31]

Syria

  • Internet blackout: 103.5 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $28.6 million

The Syrian government imposed a series of national internet blackouts as 250,000 students sat national examinations from May 19 to 22 June. Education authorities in Syria have been disrupting internet access in this way since 2016 to prevent exam questions being leaked online.[32]

“The Syrian government should stop this extremely disproportionate use of internet shutdowns to address exam cheating” – Access Now[34]

Iran

  • Internet blackout: 408 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $27.5 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

Authorities cut internet access in regions of Iran three times as a result of protests in 2021. In February, a deliberate internet outage in the impoverished Sistan and Baluchistan province hindered footage of lethal state force against demonstrators from emerging.[35] The unrest followed the fatal shooting of two fuel transporters.

Mobile internet access was cut in Khuzestan province for 288 hours in July, during widespread protests over severe water shortages. As many as 171 people were arrested and at least 9 people killed, including a child, according to Human Rights Watch.[36]

A further internet shutdown was imposed in Ahvaz in November, as violence erupted, again over water.[37]

Countries with Internet Shutdown Costs Of $1 – $10 Million

Armenia

  • Internet blackout: 41 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $8.3 million

The Armenian government deliberately shut down internet access for almost two full days in February, amid claims of an alleged coup attempt against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.[38]

The Armenian leader had been facing fierce opposition pressure to step-down after months-long protests over his handling of a six-week war with Azerbaijan.[39]

Colombia

  • Internet blackout: 24 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $6.1 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

Authorities in the Cali region of Colombia shut down the internet in May for 24 hours, amid demonstrations over tax hikes that had turned deadly. As many as 47 people were said to have been killed during clashes with police.[40] Human rights defenders were also reportedly threatened.[41]

The internet outage led to demand for VPN services increasing by 148% nationally compared to the week prior.

eSwatini

  • Internet blackout: 216 hours
  • Social media shutdown: 2 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $2.9 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

The eSwatini government cut internet access in late June in response to large-scale pro-democracy protests in Africa’s only remaining absolute monarchy. The internet blackout took place as dozens of protesters were reportedly killed and hundreds of businesses burned down.[42]

Authorities also briefly blocked Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter in October, as anti-monarchy tensions boiled over and accounts of police brutality and use of live ammunition against citizens continued to surface.[43]

Pakistan

  • Social media shutdown: 3 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $2.6 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly

The government blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram in April to prevent banned hardline opposition group Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) from further inflaming the unrest that was rocking Pakistan at that time.[44]

At least five people had already been killed, with almost 600 people injured in deadly clashes arising from TLP protests against the publication of blasphemous cartoons in France. The TLP demonstrators were demanding the expulsion of the French Ambassador to Pakistan.[45]

Republic of the Congo

  • Internet blackout: 72 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $2.5 million
  • Human rights abuses: Election interference

Authorities blocked internet access in the Republic of the Congo during the country’s presidential elections in March.[46] This was a repeat of the ruling party’s actions in March 2016, suggesting a deliberate strategy of cutting internet access during politically sensitive moments.

Despite ensuing concerns over vote-rigging and lack of transparency, the United Nations and European Union observers were barred from monitoring the elections, in which President Denis Sassou N’Guesso successfully extended his 36-year-rule.[47]

Zambia

  • Social media shutdown: 48 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $1.8 million
  • Human rights abuses: Election interference

The Zambian government blocked social media in August as the country headed to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp were all restricted.[48]

Zambian citizens hoping to bypass their government’s internet censorship, turned en masse to VPN services. We recorded a 16,341% increase in VPN demand compared to the weeks leading up to the internet outage.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu also deployed the military to intimidate the population, with widespread reports of assassinations and arrests in the lead up to election day.[49]

Chad

  • Internet blackout: 29.5 hours
  • Total cost of internet restrictions: $1.6 million
  • Human rights abuses: Right to peaceful assembly, election interference

Authorities in Chad shut down internet access in February to prevent information from emerging about a deadly raid at opposition candidate Yaya Dillo’s house a month before presidential elections were due to take place.

Five of the candidate’s family members were allegedly killed in the bloody standoff.[50] Violent clashes and the arbitrary arrest of 112 anti-government protesters were also reported in the lead up to the country’s election day, where President Idriss Deby Itno was running for a sixth term.[51]

Countries with Internet Shutdown Costs Below $1 Million

In Russia, the government blocked mobile internet access for six hours in Moscow and St. Petersburg in January following protests over the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. As many as 3,000 people were detained,[52] in the largest protest Russia has seen in recent years.

The Senegal government blocked access to Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram in March amid police clashes with protesters in the capital city of Dakar. The unrest was sparked by the arrest of a popular opposition leader, ostensibly on allegations of rape, ahead of elections.[53]

Authorities in South Sudan shut down internet access in August ahead of planned anti-government protests, as the country prepared to inaugurate a new parliament.[54] This extreme internet censorship was accompanied by threats of a tough crackdown on protestors. Activists went into hiding as heavily armed security forces were seen patrolling the streets.[55]

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2020 Report

On the anniversary of the start of the Kashmir internet shutdown, a soldier stands guard in a street divided by barbed wire in Aug 2020

On the anniversary of the start of the Kashmir internet shutdown, a soldier stands guard in a street divided by barbed wire in Aug 2020.

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 already ravaged by the coronavirus to be in excess of $4 billion. The report also identified additional human rights abuses associated with each government internet outage.

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
  • Human rights impact: 42% of deliberate internet shutdowns were associated with additional abuses

Read the full 2020 Cost of Internet Shutdowns Report

Cost of Internet Shutdowns 2019 Report

Government internet outages accompanied protests in Iraq in November 2019

Government internet outages accompanied protests in Iraq in November 2019.

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?

  • $8.05 billion: economic cost of internet shutdowns globally in 2019 – an increase of 235% since 2015/16
  • 122 major internet shutdowns took place in 21 countries during 2019
  • 18,225 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 6,236 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 shutdowns 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 and the SFLC.IN Internet Shutdown Tracker.

The economic cost of each internet shutdown is calculated using the Netblocks and the Internet Society’s 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.

Additional research by Christine O’Donnell. We would also like to acknowledge and thank Sara Perria (@Sara_Perria), Thu Thu Aung (@thuttag) and Estey Chen (@EsteyChen) for their assistance in confirming the status of social media access in Myanmar.

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

References

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-55923486

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-politics-internet/myanmar-orders-wireless-internet-shutdown-until-further-notice-telecoms-sources-idUSKBN2BO5H2?il=0

[3] https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Myanmar-Internet-Briefing-Paper-UPDATED.pdf

[4] https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/myanmar-post-coup-death-toll-tops-1000-activist-group/

[5] https://news.yahoo.com/twitter-restricted-nigeria-govt-decree-093300784.html

[6] https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/1/22704072/nigeria-twitter-ban-lift-conditions-africa

[7] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/15/nigerian-government-says-twitter-ban-end-very-soon

[8] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-01/nigerian-president-announces-conditional-lifting-of-twitter-ban?sref=mS7JmAUL

[9] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/india-restores-4g-mobile-internet-kashmir-after-18-month-ban-n1256930

[10] https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/08/04/india-abuses-persist-jammu-and-kashmir

[11] https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/india-protesting-farmers-met-with-police-violence-at-delhis-red-fort/

[12] https://thewire.in/media/internet-shutdown-blocks-news-in-kashmir-geelani-death

[13] https://indianexpress.com/article/jobs/rajasthan-shuts-down-internet-as-16-lakh-sit-for-teacher-exam-7536304/

[14] https://www.accessnow.org/voices-from-tigray-ongoing-internet-shutdown-tearing-families-communities-businesses-apart/

[15] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/ethiopia-investigation-reveals-evidence-that-scores-of-civilians-were-killed-in-massacre-in-tigray-state/

[16] https://www.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-conflict/ethiopian-journalists-arrested-as-tigray-conflict-worsens-refugees-flee-to-sudan-idUSL8N2HX0OG

[17] https://twitter.com/accessnow/status/1450061759189078021

[18] https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-disrupted-in-sudan-amid-reports-of-coup-attempt-Q8ov93yn

[19] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/15/al-jazeera-bureau-chief-arrested-in-sudan-amid-deadly-anti-coup-protests

[20] https://www.accessnow.org/mena-internet-shutdowns-during-exams/

[21] https://netblocks.org/reports/social-media-and-messaging-platforms-restricted-in-uganda-ahead-of-general-election-XB7aaO87

[22] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/uganda-internet-fully-back-weeks-after-shutdown/2140450

[23] https://apnews.com/article/kampala-elections-coronavirus-pandemic-uganda-united-states-65942284f4e73dbf120ace23775baae4

[24] https://www.rfi.fr/en/international/20210327-deadly-protests-as-india-s-modi-visits-bangladesh-to-mark-50-years-of-independence

[25] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/27/world/asia/bangladesh-protests-modi.html

[26] https://bdnews24.com/technology/2021/10/15/high-speed-mobile-internet-back-on-in-bangladesh-after-12-hour-outage

[27] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-25/burkina-faso-extends-internet-shutdown-before-nov-27-protests?sref=mS7JmAUL

[28] https://apnews.com/article/africa-niger-west-africa-blockades-burkina-faso-955d259d852af2aeae534264a46e0323

[29] https://netblocks.org/reports/social-media-restricted-in-cuba-amid-widening-anti-government-protests-QAdrmwyl

[30] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-57813704

[31] https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210714-cuba-restores-internet-access-after-protests-but-not-social-media

[32] https://pulse.internetsociety.org/blog/another-internet-blackout-in-syria-during-exams

[34] https://mobile.twitter.com/accessnow/status/1401953077729665025?lang=ar

[35] https://iranhumanrights.org/2021/03/deaths-rising-in-sistan-and-baluchistan-as-unrest-continues-amid-internet-shutdown/

[36] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/29/iran-deadly-repression-khuzestan-protests

[37] https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/police-fire-tear-gas-protesters-irans-city-isfahan-81407337

[38] https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-disrupted-in-armenia-amid-political-turmoil-and-alleged-coup-attempt-18lpVL8a

[39] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/25/armenia-pm-accuses-top-military-of-coup-attempt-live-updates

[40] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/press-release/2021/05/colombia-llamado-urgente-cesar-violencia-contra-pueblos-indigenas/

[41] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-56983865

[42] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/08/eswatini-protests-we-are-fighting-a-liberation-struggle

[43] https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/eswatini-pro-democracy-protests-continue-to-mount-as-government-blocks-internet-social-media-20211015

[44] https://www.dawn.com/news/1618552

[45] https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-blocks-social-media-platforms-amid-protest-crackdown/a-57222243

[46] https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-shutdown-in-the-republic-of-the-congo-on-election-day-xAGR398z

[47] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-congorepublic-election-fraud-idUSKBN2BG31Z

[48] https://netblocks.org/reports/whatsapp-and-social-media-restricted-in-zambia-on-election-day-18lpLY8a

[49] https://www.accessnow.org/shutdown-in-zambia-on-election-day-how-it-affected-peoples-lives-and-wellbeing/

[50] https://news.trust.org/item/20210228121308-wn8wd/

[51] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/08/chad-pre-election-crackdown-opponents

[52] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-55778334

[53] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-senegal-politics-sonko-idUSKCN2AY08A

[54] https://www.rfi.fr/en/africa/20210830-protests-banned-in-juba-as-south-sudan-inaugurates-new-parliament

[55] https://www.jordantimes.com/news/region/activists-go-hiding-south-sudan-warns-against-protests