The human cost of internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns are becoming an increasingly common form of censorship and repression, with an estimated 187 shutdowns in 2022 alone, according to Access Now. These shutdowns are often used to prevent people from accessing vital resources, and the human cost of these shutdowns is often devastating; from economic losses to being cut off from essential services and even loss of life. Internet shutdowns are becoming a major issue in the digital age, and the need to address them is critically important.

One of the most significant internet shutdowns in recent years was in Myanmar in February 2021, when the military junta shut down the internet and social media platforms in an attempt to quell protests against their coup. This internet blackout lasted for weeks, severely restricting communication and access to information for the people of Myanmar.

Another notable example is India, which has been known to shut down the internet frequently in certain regions, particularly in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. These shutdowns have not only disrupted the lives of millions of people but have also caused significant economic losses.


Internet shutdowns have a severe impact on human life and livelihoods, not only in terms of disruption of basic services, but also regarding the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and economic activities. In some cases, the economic impact of an internet shutdown can be catastrophic. For instance, in 2018, a three-day internet shutdown in Cameroon cost the country an estimated US$2.5 million in lost revenue. The human cost of internet shutdowns, however, goes beyond economic losses. For example, in 2019, internet shutdowns in Cameroon, India and Iraq were linked to a significant increase in human rights violations, including arrests, detentions and torture of journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens. The same is true for other countries where internet shutdowns have become a regular occurrence. By limiting access to information, freedom of expression, and essential services, internet shutdowns undermine the basic human rights of individuals, their families and their communities.

The economic impact of internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns not only have an economic cost, but they also have a significant human cost. These shutdowns deprive citizens of their right to access information, a right that is essential for a healthy democracy. People are not able to access news, make informed decisions, or communicate with friends and family. Internet shutdowns can also limit access to essential services, such as healthcare, education, and banking. This can lead to social and economic disruption, which further harms vulnerable populations. Additionally, internet shutdowns can lead to an increase in human rights violations, such as censorship, violence, and discrimination. This not only prevents people from participating in meaningful dialogue and debate, but also affects their fundamental rights and freedoms. In short, internet shutdowns have a significant human cost, and it is essential that governments, companies, and civil society work together to ensure that these shutdowns are limited and that people's access to the internet is respected and protected.

The social impact of internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns have a devastating effect on people's lives, both in the short term and long term. In the short term, these shutdowns can disrupt basic human needs, such as access to food, education and healthcare. People are unable to access vital online services, including banking and communication, that they rely on. This can also have a negative impact on businesses, with many unable to operate when the internet is shut off. In the long term, internet shutdowns can have a serious impact on people’s mental health, as they are unable to access the online services they rely on. This can lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression, as people are unable to connect with friends and family or access vital services. Furthermore, these shutdowns can lead to a loss of trust in the government, as people are unable to rely on them for basic services. This can create an atmosphere of distrust and fear, which can have far-reaching implications for society.

The political impact of internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns have an incalculable human cost. They are a violation of fundamental human rights, such as freedom of information and expression, and they amount to a form of censorship that cuts people off from the rest of the world. This can have devastating psychological impacts, including loneliness and depression, as well as economic ones, with businesses unable to operate and people unable to access essential services. This can also lead to increased poverty, as businesses close and people are unable to access the global market for goods and services. Even more worrying is the potential for violence, as people are cut off from communication with each other and the government, and are unable to access the information they need to make informed decisions. The consequences of internet shutdowns can be far-reaching and long-lasting, and should not be taken lightly.


As we have seen, internet shutdowns have a devastating effect on individuals and societies alike. Not only do they stifle freedom of expression and hinder access to knowledge, they also come with a hefty human cost. This human cost can be seen in the form of lost wages, missed educational opportunities, and wasted time and effort, to name a few. It is clear that internet shutdowns should be avoided whenever possible, as they not only threaten our access to information and communication, but also impose a heavy financial burden on those affected. It is time for governments and policymakers to take this issue seriously in order to protect citizens from the financial and social consequences of internet shutdowns.

Want to know more about how to mitigate the effects of and end internet shutdowns? Check out our courses at the Advocacy Assembly Shutdown Academy here.

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