The mechanics of the internet mean that blocks on access imposed by one country can be felt half a world away
- Governments embrace internet shutdowns as a form of control
- How to shut down the internet – and how to fight back
When Myanmar’s military ordered telecom companies to shut down access to Twitter in February 2021, one Twitter user in Mumbai who was posting critically about the Indian government realised he had lost access to the social media platform. He sent a message on Signal to a friend: “Am I imagining this? I may be being paranoid, but why am I having access difficulties with Twitter?” He was not paranoid. Myanmar’s Twitter block had accidentally cut Twitter access to at least half a billion internet users. The same dynamic was repeated in March 2022, when Russia inadvertently cut access to Twitter across Europe with a block designed for its own people.
The mechanics of the internet mean that blocks on access imposed by one country may leach over the borders on to neighbouring populations, or even be felt half a world away by users in different continents.