What is the Internet Shutdown Tracker?

The Internet Shutdown Tracker is a project that tracks cases of government-imposed network connection disruptions and social media/messaging app restrictions in 196 countries and territories from 2015 to the present day. The study uncovers the governments that have imposed shutdowns in the past and pinpoints the time and cause for each case. Restrictions that were already active in 2015 are included in the tracker as well. The Internet Shutdown Tracker is very important in a time where undemocratic governments around the world restrict their citizens’ access to the internet in times of political unrest to limit freedom of speech and prevent people from mobilizing for the defense of democracy.

How do you track internet shutdowns?

To track cases of internet shutdowns, we comb over the reports from organizations working in the field of internet shutdowns and analyze articles from credible news services.

What sources do you use?

For our internet censorship tracker, a lot of data is collected from trusted digital rights NGOs NetBlocks and AccessNow, as well as Freedom House. When it comes to news sources, we use the reporting from BBC, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and similar.

Other sources used as supplementary metrics in the analysis:

Find full research material here

How accurate is the information on the page?

While our research data is strictly checked, there may be some inaccuracies due to the sources. As the Internet Shutdown Tracker relies on open-source reporting of internet shutdowns, some cases may go unnoticed due to lack of coverage. This can lead to underreporting.

When estimating the population affected, we consider a restriction to be country-wide if several major cities are hit by it. If during the chosen period of time, a country has restricted the internet several times on a local or national scale, we add the country’s total population to the final affected people count.

When estimating the duration of an internet restriction with no specific duration described by our sources, we use similar events as a guideline. If there are no clues about the start or end of the event, the duration is assumed to be 24 hours.

What is the difference between social media/messaging app disruptions and network connection disruptions?

Social media/messaging app disruptions encompass social media sites like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), as well as messaging apps (including VoIP) like WhatsApp and Telegram.

Network connection disruptions do not target specific websites or services. They involve disruptions to an entire region’s, city’s or country’s network connection. Local network connection disruptions involve a single town, city or region, while national disruptions affect the entire country’s network connection.

What are the main terms used in this study?

Internet shutdowns (as referred to in the main “Tracker” landing page) - this term encompasses both network connection disruptions and social media/messaging app disruptions.

Network connection disruptions - disruptions or the outright blocking of the ability to browse the internet on either a local (town, city or region) scale or on a nationwide scale.

Social media/messaging app restrictions - restrictions of social media services like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), as well as messaging apps (including VoIP) like WhatsApp and Telegram.

In the past - all internet shutdown cases Surfshark has recorded since 2015, as well as cases that are currently ongoing (such as permanent messaging app restrictions due to internet laws).

Protests - a public objection toward a governing party's decisions or actions. Common protest examples include labor strikes, marches, rallies, and sit-ins, as well as riots and looting on the more extreme side of the scale.

Elections - the decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.

Internet law - a country's legal principles and regulations that govern their citizen's internet usage.
Examples of “Internet law” cases:

  • Gulf countries have for a long time banned voice and video internet calling apps and platforms under the pretext of protecting the economic interests of national telecommunication companies.
  • Russia banned Telegram for its refusal to share user messaging data with the government.

Other political turmoil - a state of confusion, uncertainty, or disorder within a country’s governing political party, unrelated to protests, elections, or internet law. Examples include military operations and internet disruptions aimed at limiting freedom of speech.