Authoritarian Practices in the Digital Age| Understanding Internet Shutdowns: A Case Study from Pakistan

Ben Wagner


This article provides an overview of Internet shutdowns in Pakistan, which have become an increasingly common phenomenon, with 41 occurring between 2012 and 2017. It argues that to understand how shutdowns became normalized in Pakistan, it is necessary to look at the specific dynamics of how the shutdowns take place. In doing so, the concept of communicative ruptures develops to better understand intentional government shutdowns of communications. The article argues that strategic prevention of mobilization is key for short-term shutdowns, whereas long-term shutdowns can be better explained by looking at disciplinary mechanisms and denying the existence of “others.” The article then discusses Internet shutdowns in the wider context of authoritarian practices before concluding with the urgent need for further research on this topic, both in Pakistan and beyond.


Internet shutdowns, human rights, telecommunications policy, Internet access, technology regulation, authoritarian politics

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