In 2021, Sudan was one of the countries that signed the United Nations (UN) resolution on human rights on the internet aims to protect and promote human rights online. Two years down the line, Sudan has broken this pledge at least nine times, according to a study conducted by cybersecurity company Surfshark.
The first disruption occurred just three months after the resolution, coinciding with Sudan's military coup outbreak. Since then, Sudan has faced several wide-scale internet disruptions, with the most recent one recorded in April 2023 amidst an ongoing armed conflict between rival factions of military forces.
"Internet connectivity has saved lives since the start of the conflict, and its absence will make it more difficult for residents to avoid danger and stay safe," Isik Mater, Director of Research at NetBlocks said.
Aside from Sudan, four other African countries—Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Somalia, and Nigeria—also broke the pledge. Surfshark's Internet Shutdown Tracker reveals that there were a total of 16 internet disruptions in these five African countries during or after the adoption of the resolution.
"The UN resolution on human rights on the internet aims to make countries openly condemn these shutdowns and other ways of restricting online speech," says Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark spokeswoman. "However, it's concerning that even though five African countries publicly supported the resolution, they still imposed internet restrictions".
"In today’s world, internet shutdowns have become a major concern. Authoritarian governments frequently employ them to manipulate the public and stifle free speech," Racaityte-Krasauske added.
Out of the 193 UN Member States, 14 countries fell short of their promises. Despite supporting the July 2021 UN Human Rights Council resolution on promoting human rights on the internet and condemning internet shutdowns, Surfshark’s Internet Shutdown Tracker shows that these countries either had ongoing internet restrictions or disrupted internet access since then.
Now, let's look at the bigger picture. 78 countries (or 40%) supported the resolution by either voting in favour of it or sponsoring it.
Interestingly, over half of the countries (111) took a passive position. They could not express their stance through voting because they were not elected to the council. However, they had the opportunity to sponsor the resolution but chose not to.
On the other hand, four countries that were part of the council decided to abstain from voting. These countries were Cameroon, China, Eritrea, and Venezuela. Their decision not to vote on the resolution raises questions about their position on promoting human rights online.
Editor's Note: The data quoted in this article was provided by Surfshark