One in Eight Countries Face Internet Access Risk

January 15, 2024
Internet Access Risk

By Adedapo Adesanya

Surfshark, a cybersecurity company, has warned that internet access is at risk in one in eight countries where elections are due to take place around the world in 2024.

Elections have a history of triggering increased internet restrictions in some countries. Such restrictions compromise the integrity and fairness of elections by enabling governments to exert greater control over the public narrative.

Surfshark’s Research Hub detailed the countries that have been imposing internet restrictions during elections since 2015, and it forecasts those at risk of doing so in 2024.

The report, seen by Business Post, showed that among the 90 countries gearing up for elections in 2024, 12 have a history of imposing restrictions on internet services during election times.

Since 2015, a significant 75 per cent of these interventions involved severing network connectivity.

According to the firm, this tactic does more than just mute online conversations — it disrupts the flow of information essential for transparent electoral processes. The other measures have primarily concerned social media blackouts, which hinder the citizens’ ability to communicate, organize, and voice their objections.

The report spotlighted Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia as largely affected by internet disruptions by governments. SSA, to which Nigeria belongs, has witnessed 29 reported cases of election-related internet censorship since 2015, closely followed by Southern Asia with 28 incidents.

The impending 2024 elections loom large over countries in these areas — Mali, Malawi, Chad, and Mauritania in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in Southern Asia.

In Europe, Belarus is also stepping into the election arena with its upcoming parliamentary elections.

The country’s latest presidential election was significantly affected by extensive internet disruptions and the strategic blocking of social media channels, particularly X (formerly known as Twitter ) — a vital platform for political participation and societal dialogue.

“These trends suggest a strategic use of digital suppression tactics in these regions, which, coupled with their histories, indicate a heightened risk for internet blackouts as their elections draw near,” Surfshark said.

According to Agneska Sablovskaja, Lead Researcher at Surfshark, election season often brings a wave of internet shutdowns around the world.

“As we gear up for an election-packed 2024, our Research Hub has examined internet freedom in 196 countries. We’ve discovered that countries with a history of internet blackouts during elections score an average of just 32 out of 100 on the global freedom scale.

“As a reminder, this scale measures personal, civil, and economic freedoms. 32 is significantly below the worldwide average of 58. This suggests a strong connection between digital censorship and wider violations of freedom.”

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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