Digital Infrastructure, Liminality, and World-Making Via Asia| (Dis)information Blackouts: Politics and Practices of Internet Shutdowns

Nishant Shah


Various emerging digital information societies like India exercise Internet shutdowns and information blackouts regularly as a way of dealing with different kinds of crises. These blackouts are justified as countering the misinformation cycles that amplify (dis)information that we have come to characterize as “fake news.” An immersive ethnography during an Internet shutdowns in India revealed these blackouts are neither absolute nor foolproof because blackouts have multiple back doors that allow different kinds of information to flow through networked and social negotiations. I argue that Internet shutdowns need to be seen as specific exercises of geopolitical and sovereign power and read as performative because they are both inefficient and ineffective in achieving information blackouts. Making a distinction between misinformation and disinformation, I show how these Internet shutdowns do not stop the circulation of fake news but, as infrastructural tools, they enable state (dis)information and propaganda to spread without resistance and thus become potent tools in curbing protests and rightful critique of authoritarian practices.


disinformation, Internet blackouts, freedom of speech, Internet governance

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