Internet Shutdowns To Suppress Free Speech

Grind for March 2nd
“It’s like an act of murder, you play with intent to commit something.”
– Duke Ellington

Not Okay

The Headline

More governments are using Internet shutdowns to suppress free speech

The Grind

Governments throughout the world are increasingly using Internet shutdowns as a tool to silence dissent, restrict freedom of speech, and keep a population from communicating with the rest of the world.

According to the Wall Street Journal, parts or all of the Internet were turned off at least 213 times in 33 countries last year.

India tops the charts for shutdowns, having closed its Internet more than 130 times in 2018. Pakistan shuttered its Internet 12 times that year, followed by Yemen and Iraq with 7 shutdowns, Ethiopia with 6 shutdowns, and DR Congo with 3 shutdowns.

The Details

The first intentional nationwide blackout occurred in 2011, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak severed all Internet connections and cellphone services in the face of mounting political unrest regarding the Arab Spring.

In 2018, Russia switched off its Internet for two weeks to stymie protests regarding a new deal on Ingushetia’s border with Chechnya. The goal was to prevent activists from using WhatsApp to organize demonstrations. Similar steps have been taken by governments in Chad, Sudan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Congo, Turkey, and others.

In 2019, Ethiopia blocked its Internet from June 22nd to July 2nd following a failed coup attempt against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. That same month, Mauritania silenced its Internet minutes before the results of a national election were announced.

Last summer, Myanmar switched off the Internet in nine townships in order to prevent people from using social media to “coordinate illegal activities.” Nearly 250 days later, the Internet is still off.

The Takeaway

To shut down its Internet, all a government has to do is politely demand that its ISPs turn off all outside connections.

ISPs depend on government licenses and contracts to do business and therefore have no leverage when asked to restrict access, intercept messages, pinpoint user locations, block apps and websites, or shut down entire networks.

The UN has no global agreement protecting Internet freedoms.

In most cases, ISPs are obligated to obey the government and the government has the power to turn off the Internet during an emergency.

If a country is willing to cut off communication for any reason, it does not support free speech. The hackers will eventually find a way around Internet shutdowns and make massive amounts of money selling their services to businesses and individuals who want to remain online.

From Bad To Worse

The Headline

The coronavirus is coming to the United States. Are you ready?

The Grind

Officials from the CDC on Tuesday urged US residents to prepare for “significant disruptions” to everyday life as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread.

Live updates confirm more than 81,000 cases worldwide, but reports suggest the outbreak in China may be up to 10 times worse than officials are reporting.

Dr. Nancy Messonier, head of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, urged businesses to anticipate using telephone or video conferences instead of in-person meetings and said that hospitals might consider adding more Telehealth services.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more, but a question of when this will happen,” said Messonier. “Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools, and everyday people to begin preparing.”

The Details

The CDC’s grim warning coincided with the Democratic primary debate in South Carolina, during which several candidates criticized the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19.

President Trump said his Administration was “doing a great job” and predicted the Democrats would call his Administration “incompetent” even if the virus “disappeared tomorrow.”

In the meantime, experts at the National Institutes of Health are preparing to conduct clinical trials for a vaccine.

“We need to be able to think about how we will respond to a pandemic outbreak,” says Dr. Fauci, an infectious disease specialist at the NIH. “It’s very clear. If we have a global pandemic, no country is going to be without impact.”

The term “pandemic” refers to a disease that continues to spread from person to person in multiple areas of the world simultaneously.

“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has,” says WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”

The Takeaway

Everyone expected China to lie about this and we were impressed when they appeared to come clean about COVID-19 in January. Now that we know China was lying, doctors throughout the world will need to adjust their strategies and gather additional resources to prevent a pandemic.

And let’s not forget that Wuhan – the center of the outbreak – is home to two major bioweapons laboratories. These are the same labs now leading research and prevention efforts.

If it turns out COVID-19 escaped from one of these labs, all hell will break loose.

Did you know… Florida has more tornados per square mile than any other state.