Latest News Editor's Choice


Opinion / Columnist

Zimbabwe was right in shutting down the internet

25 Jan 2019 at 13:52hrs | Views
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights took the government to court with the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, ZLHR. Access to Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Twitter was closed. Lawyers agued that The shutdown was a violation of citizens' fundamental rights including access to information enshrined in Section 61 of the constitution. But Just what is an internet shutdown, and why do we need to #KeepItOn?

An internet shutdown happens when someone (usually a government) intentionally disrupts the internet or mobile apps to control what people say, see or do. Shutdowns are also sometimes called "blackouts" or "kill switches."

To really get down to the nitty gritty, the technical definition is: "An intentional disruption of internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable, for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information."

Why do governments order shutdowns? Governments give many reasons for ordering shutdowns. It could be to stop people from sharing information or organising protests, even when the demonstrations are peaceful. Other reasons they've given include: Stopping students from cheating on school exams. Punishing certain companies, such as messaging app makers. Preventing attacks during public holidays. Protecting national security.

National security refers to policy enacted by governments to ensure the survival and safety of the nation-state, including but not limited to the exercise of diplomatic, economic, and military power in both peace and war. National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power. National security now encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the non military or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society.

Accordingly, in order to possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, and communication security. Communication must never be left in the hands of the irresponsible people. Governmnent must control communication and any means of communication. It must be noted that Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and non state actors. This includes vandals arsonists and any violence paddlers even if they are nationals. Any organisation person or individual who breaches peace is a threat to national security. In dealing with such threats the government has a full right to trace the source of violence or any form used to communicate the means and ways of violence. It has been clear that internet has been and was being used to spread and incite violence. In the best interest of the general public the transport of violent news was to be dealt with. This then called for a complete shutdown of the internet to stop the spreading of fake news and to intercept the unlawful execution of destruction to property and any form of thuggery called stay away.

People spoke about stay away but they were in towns staying in. The government was bound by duty to take Measures to ensure national security this included using diplomacy to rally allies and to cut the internet to isolate threats marshalling power to avoid further anarchy and facilitate or compel cooperation. This was done through maintaining effective armed forces implementing civil defense and emergency preparedness measures ensuring the resilience and redundancy of critical infrastructure using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information using counterintelligence services or secret police to protect the nation from internal threats and to switch off any form of communication.

The internet was switched off for the good of the nation. To protect the infrastructure and to impose safety and freedom on the nation.

In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council "unequivocally condemned" internet shutdowns for violating your human rights. But it allowed the complete shutdown only if it is in the best interest of the nation. So the shut down by the Zimbabwean government was highly neccessary and it was for the best interest of the nation. Controlling the internet means that the packets of information traveling on the web, such as an animated gif, aren't allowed to travel to their final destination. In addition to these examples, there are many more ways, and governments are using increasingly sophisticated methods to disrupt communications. This is not done to negatively control people but to execute the duty of the government of maintaining and keeping peace. Sometimes users on the ground can provide vital evidence such as screenshots or even network measurements to show the flow of negative counterproductive inciting messages.

internet shutdowns are such an important topic because the internet helps us realise our human rights, including free expression and privacy. When governments shut off the internet, people can't communicate with loved ones, run their businesses, or even visit their doctors during an emergency. More and more people need the internet to connect and make a living, and cannot afford to lose access on a routine basis.But when the internet is being abused it is the duty of the government to deal with the source of the anarchy. Internet is now being used as a source or transport of national terrorism.

The worst thing we can do is sit and do nothing, when it's within our power to do something. If the country outlaws this practice of abusing the social media entirely then we can hold people accountable for violating the rules.

Can governments should not be penalised for ordering a shutdown? It must always be remembered that your rights ends exactly where my rights begins.

While The UN Human Rights Council has "unequivocally condemned" internet shutdowns, and so too have many officials and leaders around the world. All governments have a responsibility to respect and protect human rights, and to provide a remedy when rights are violated. But there is currently no binding sanction or penalty for disrupting the internet. So it's up to us to raise the stakes, and use our voices, each time to stop the paddling of wrong information and abuse of social media.

What can civil society groups do to influence governments to avoid shutdowns?

Civil society groups have a huge role to play in ending the practice of shutdowns. They can speak out to our leaders, collect information and evidence about abuses educate our communities, and develop ways for people to circulating fake news. people can circumvent shutdowns and get online during certain situations, for example through the use of technology tools such as Virtual Private Networks. But shutdowns are a multi-stakeholder problem, with companies and governments also playing a critical role. We all need to work together to reach a solution.

shutdowns are actually helpful in preventing thugs to mobilise and to stop terrorist attacks. Shutdowns can cause psychological harm, as people can't find out if their loved ones are safe. But this does not outweigh national security. Governments did share more about why they order shutdowns, to let the public make an informed choice about the issue. there a risk that shutdowns are going to be more and more frequent in the future if people become more and more irresponsible.

Zimbabwe is not the only country which shuts down internet to save its people. Access Now has documented over 50 shutdowns in 2016 alone, up from less than 20 in 2015. The trend does appear to be growing because more people are going online and using the internet to undermine peace. People are enjoying the freedom and opportunities that the internet provides, enabling them to organise themselves and advocate for what they believe in. However some people abuse this life line. In response, governments are shutting down the net to stop this practice, but at an enormous cost.

Over 100 civil society groups from nearly 50 countries are members of the #KeepitOn campaign. Many of these organisations work in countries that are affected directly by shutdowns, including in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East/North Africa region. Some are tiny, grassroots groups with just one member of staff and volunteers, while others are established international organisations. This shows that the shutdown is prevalent in many countries. This practice is done as a preventive measure.

The downside is that businesses suffer immensely during internet shutdowns. The Brookings Institution, a major think tank, found that the global economy lost at least $2.4 billion during internet shutdowns last year. That's an absolute minimum. Online banks, courier services, and internet companies have all lost drastic amounts of money during disruptions. Ecocash could not operate and this added a jab to money shortages. This especially hurts Zimbabwe which is striving to embrace the digital economy and innovation. But it was a necessary evil.

this problem is not restricted to just a few countries.shutdowns happen all over the world. They have been recorded in more than 25 countries on four continents this year, even in Europe. Additionally, some countries haven't actually ordered a shutdown, but they have the ability to do so. For example, the United States Department of Homeland Security has Standard Operating Procedure 303, which is secretive so people don't understand how or when it could be used. Many other countries have old or outdated laws that they interpret to authorise a shutdown.

So the shut down in Zimbabwe was necessary in the best interest of the nation.

Vazet2000@yahoo.co.uk.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Subscribe

Email: