In 2021, Sudan was among the countries that signed the United Nations (UN) Resolution on Human Rights Online, which aims to protect and promote human rights online. Two years later, Sudan has broken that promise at least nine times, according to a study by cybersecurity firm Surfshark.
The first disruptions occurred just three months after the resolution and coincided with the outbreak of the military coup in Sudan. Since then, Sudan has faced several wide-ranging internet disruptions, with the most recent being registered in April 2023 amid an ongoing armed conflict between rival factions in the armed forces.
“Internet connectivity has been saving lives since the conflict began, and lack of it will make it harder for residents to avoid danger and stay safe,” said Isik Mater, director of research at NetBlocks.
In addition to Sudan, four other African countries – Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Somalia and Nigeria – have also broken the promise. Surfshark’s Internet Shutdown Tracker shows that there were a total of 16 internet shutdowns in these five African countries during or after the passage of the resolution.
“The UN resolution on human rights online aims to get countries to publicly condemn these closures and other types of restrictions on online speech,” said Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, spokeswoman for Surfshark. “However, it is worrying that five African countries, despite publicly supporting the resolution, nevertheless imposed internet restrictions.”
Outside of Africa, nine other countries have also broken their word on internet restrictions, including India, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Armenia, Indonesia and Ukraine.
“In today’s world, Internet shutdowns have become a major problem. Authoritarian governments often use them to manipulate the public and suppress free speech,” Racaityte-Krasauske added.
Of the 193 UN member states, 14 countries fell short of their promises. Despite supporting the UN Human Rights Council’s July 2021 resolution to promote human rights online and condemn internet shutdowns, Surfshark’s Internet Shutdown Tracker shows that these countries have either had ongoing internet restrictions or have disrupted internet access since then.
Now let’s look at the big picture. 78 countries (or 40%) supported the resolution by either voting in favor or supporting it.
Interestingly, more than half of the countries (111) took a passive stance. They could not express their position by voting as they were not elected to the Council. However, they had the opportunity to support the resolution, but decided against it.
On the other hand, four countries that were part of the Council decided to abstain. These countries were Cameroon, China, Eritrea and Venezuela. Her decision not to vote on the resolution raises questions about her stance on promoting human rights online.
Editor’s Note: The data cited in this article was provided by Surfshark