Internet Fragmentation > Internet Shutdowns during Elections

What Happens If You Can’t Get Online during Election Time?

Region: Global
Threat type: Internet Shutdowns
Last updated: 1 December 2023

Political parties, candidates, and voters benefit from the Internet. It must remain on and strong during elections.

Elections can be an exciting, anxious time in any country. Even if we do not follow elections closely, everyone deserves access to all the information they need about their potential leaders and representatives. But an increasing number of governments are ordering Internet shutdowns during elections, arguing that they’re necessary to stop the spread of disinformation and maintain public order.

But shutting off access to the Internet has the opposite effect: it can provoke violence and make countering rumors, disinformation, and misinformation difficult.

Candidates and political parties need to be able to organize, assemble, and communicate their electoral programs. Voters need to have access to information so they can make informed decisions. They need to be able to participate in campaigns and rallies, and engage in debate or other electoral processes. The media has a key role in ensuring transparency, and communicating accurate, fact-checked information to the general public. Internet access is also important for being able to document processes and report election results.

If there is election-related civil unrest, it’s even more important for people to be able to get online, so they can get accurate safety information, stay in touch with each other, or even do things like find a safe route to their local polling place.

Without access to the Internet, all of these things become much more difficult, if not impossible. Shutdowns prevent people from fully participating in the electoral process. They hinder voters from getting information, engaging in debate, or even getting out to vote. Shutdowns prevent the media from reporting on developments. This undermines the capacity of political parties and candidates to campaign and mobilize voters.


The Internet Society is tracking and measuring these disruptions and working with partners in the region with the objective of bringing awareness that this practice should end. All of our resources and monitoring of Internet shutdowns and the health of the Internet can be seen on the Internet Society Pulse platform.

Our Position

Internet shutdowns harm societies and economies, and they reduce the reliability of the global Internet infrastructure. We urge governments and decision-makers everywhere to support policies that keep the Internet on and strong, in order to build robust and resilient economies and give people the opportunity to build their own prosperous futures. The Internet must not be shut down during elections. People across a country need to meaningfully exchange ideas, information, engage in debate, and choose their leaders.

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Talking Points

  • Internet shutdowns are sometimes used as an extension of traditional forms of censorship, like during elections. However, Internet access–or the lack of it–does not address the political and institutional issues in a country. In fact, an Internet shutdown during an election can deepen the distrust in the democratic process.
  • Every shutdown not only cuts people in a region off from the Internet, it also cuts the world off from that region. Many web services use backend components based in multiple geographies, so even a company outside the area could be affected by the shutdown. For the Internet to be open, secure, and trustworthy, it needs to be global, and every shutdown makes it less global.
  • Reliable access to the Internet is especially important for marginalized individuals and groups, and cutting off their access means they are even more constrained. It becomes even more difficult to communicate, travel, or do business safely and securely.