Digital democracy|Digital freedom
How common are internet restrictions during elections?
In 2024, 90 countries are gearing up for elections. In some countries, these electoral periods are accompanied by an increase in internet restrictions. Such restrictions undermine the integrity and fairness of elections, allowing the government to have greater control over the public narrative. Surfshark examines the countries that have been guilty of internet restrictions during elections since 2015 and predicts which countries may be at risk in 2024.
- Among the 90 countries preparing for elections in 2024, 12 have a track record of implementing restrictions on internet services during elections. Since 2015, nearly three-quarters of these constraints have involved network connectivity disruptions. The rest targeted social media platforms.
- Election-related internet restrictions have affected Sub-Saharan Africa the most, with 29 reported cases since 2015, followed by Southern Asia with 28 cases. In 2024, elections are scheduled for Mali, Malawi, Chad, and Mauritania in Sub-Saharan Africa, along with India, Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in Southern Asia. All these countries have a history of internet restrictions during elections, making them vulnerable to further disruptions.
- This spring, India and Iran are set for parliamentary elections. Both countries have a history of imposing internet restrictions during elections, with 4 instances recorded in India and 3 in Iran since 2015.
- On the global freedom scale, which measures personal, civil, and economic freedom¹, countries with a history of internet restrictions during elections average a mere 32 points out of a possible 100. This stands in stark contrast to the global average of 58, suggesting a link between digital suppression and broader infringements on freedom.
Methodology and sources
We analyzed 196 countries and territories in Surfshark’s Internet Shutdown Tracker based on their history of election-related internet restrictions, social media blockages, and election status in 2024. Data on the 2024 elections was collected and aggregated from Anchor Change, IFES, and IPU Parline. Global Freedom Index data was collected from Freedom House.For complete research material behind this study, visit here.