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Measuring the Internet 10 May 2021

Tracking Internet Shutdowns

Susannah Gray
By Susannah GrayDirector, Communications

Internet shutdowns harm societies, economies, and the global Internet infrastructure – that’s why we’re tracking disruptions on the Internet Society Pulse platform. There are thousands of disruptions to Internet access every day all over the world, but not all of them are the result of deliberate shutdowns. Lengthy outages are usually the result of technical errorsrouting misconfigurations, or infrastructure failures.

To ensure that we only report actual, deliberate and mandated disruptions, the Pulse platform team keeps a close eye on Internet traffic patterns from various sources, including CAIDA’s Internet Outage Detection & Analysis (IODA) tool and Google’s Transparency Report. If our data sources indicate that a shutdown is deliberate, we cross check to see if there are media reports from reputable sources or published orders issued by authorities to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). If we can verify that the disruption is intentional, we will add an entry to the Pulse Shutdowns Tracker.

Pulse Shutdowns tracker

Adding a Shutdown to the Tracker

For a shutdown to appear on the Pulse Shutdowns Tracker it needs to meet all of the following requirements. It must:

  • Be artificially induced, as evident from reputable sources, including government statements and orders.
  • Remove Internet access.
  • Affect access to a group of people.

Spreading the News

Once the team has ascertained that a shutdown is a deliberate disruption of access and it has been listed in the Pulse Shutdowns Tracker, we make a short announcement about it on the Pulse Twitter account to alert our followers that a shutdown is in progress.

Safety First

Occasionally, even if a shutdown is deliberate and has been listed in the Pulse tracker, we do not tweet about it. In some countries or regions, issuing any kind of statement that could be perceived as negative towards the ruling administration – even if it is just a simple tweet – might put our Chapter Leaders, Chapter Members, and local staff in danger. Where we believe this might be the case, we work with the local Chapter and our Regional Vice Presidents to determine the risk of issuing an announcement.

Let Us Know

One of the goals of the Pulse platform is to publish first-hand accounts of how Internet shutdowns affect people’s daily lives to augment the data with real-world stories. If you’ve experienced a deliberate Internet shutdown in your country or region recently and would like to let us know how it impacted you and your community, business, or education, we’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch with the Pulse team at [email protected].

Stay Informed

To ensure you’re aware of any ongoing Internet shutdowns:


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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