Governments around the world have grown more savvy in their efforts to stifle the free flow of information online—it’s not just about internet shutdowns anymore. An increasing number of governments are forcing internet service providers to slow their services during critical social and political junctures—a practice known as internet throttling, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) reports:
By slowing internet speeds to a snail’s pace, they prevent people from easily accessing and sharing news. Throttling not only limits citizens’ access to information, but also hampers the efforts of journalists to report on what is happening, often at times when it is needed most. In countries where the media is struggling to survive financially, internet throttling is yet another major challenge for media development.
In CIMA’s latest report, “The Rise of Internet Throttling: A Hidden Threat to Media Development,” digital rights researcher Samuel Woodhams explains how governments are using internet throttling and examines the broader impact on media ecosystems:
– Throttling refers to the intentional slowing of an internet service by an internet service provider.
– It stifles the free flow of information during critical moments and prevents journalists from providing vital information to citizens abroad and at home.
– Due to its difficulty to detect, throttling shields authorities from public scrutiny.
– Businesses have a duty to be transparent about how and when governments force them to disrupt their services, yet often remain silent on the issue.
The report highlights the evidence from three unique contexts: India, Jordan, and Venezuela. In each case, the practice disrupts journalists’ attempts to provide vital information, enabling authorities to maintain control over the public narrative. Yet all too often throttling goes unnoticed. The insidious nature of throttling shields authorities from domestic and international condemnation, allowing them to maintain their control over the flow of information.