Changing human-language interaction using sophisticated language models

15th March, 2024
Changing human-language interaction using sophisticated language models

In 2023, India experienced the lengthiest internet shutdown recorded in terms of user hours, as per a report by the virtual private network tracker Top 10VPN.

Specifically, India enforced an internet blackout exceeding 5,000 hours in Manipur alone due to ongoing ethnic conflict between the Kukis and Meiteis. Nationally, the internet remained inaccessible for a total of 7,956 hours, affecting approximately 59.1 million users and resulting in a global economic loss of slightly over $585 million. Among these hours, 7,812 constituted a complete blackout, while social media platforms were unavailable for 144 hours.

The report highlighted that India implemented 30 significant internet shutdowns in 2023, primarily concentrated in specific districts, cities, and even villages, often in response to civil unrest, sometimes preemptively.

Furthermore, in the global context of internet shutdowns, Russia led the tally in terms of user impact during 2023, affecting 113 million users over 1,353 hours and costing the global economy $4.02 billion. Following Russia were Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Iran.

The frequency of internet shutdowns has been on the rise in India over recent years, sparking concerns about freedom of speech and expression within the world’s largest democracy.

According to another report from the global non-profit Internet Society titled ‘Netloss,’ shutdowns orchestrated by law enforcement agencies, such as those in Manipur and Punjab, incurred a cost of $1.9 billion to the Indian economy in the first half of 2023.

In Punjab, mobile internet services were suspended while authorities pursued Amritpal Singh, a radical preacher affiliated with the Khalistani separatist group Waris Punjab De, to prevent the dissemination of misinformation and fake news. This shutdown left over 25 million people without mobile internet access.

Critics, including the Internet Freedom Foundation, have pointed out the arbitrary nature of these shutdowns, emphasizing the lack of administrative discretion and adherence to legal guidelines, including those set by the Supreme Court.

India’s track record with internet shutdowns has been contentious, with the country imposing such restrictions 106 times in 2021 alone, the highest globally for the fourth consecutive year. Between 2012 and 2022, India witnessed 683 internet shutdowns, the highest globally.

Industry bodies like the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have urged the government to address the issue of internet shutdowns to mitigate uncertainty and inconvenience to the public.

In addition, social media platforms, particularly X (formerly Twitter), have frequently been targeted, with Twitter enduring the most prolonged disruptions compared to Instagram and TikTok. The platform has faced challenges from the Indian government regarding compliance with takedown orders, prompting debates around freedom of expression and transparency.