NetBlocks and the Internet Society Launch Tool to Calculate the Cost of Internet Censorship Worldwide

News Update |

A new tool to support internet freedom is being launched by NetBlocks and the Internet Society, a global non-profit organisation dedicated to the open development, use and evolution of the Internet.

Launch COSTRun the Cost of Shutdown Tool

The organisations have partnered up to build COST, a tool that seeks to measure the economic cost of internet disruptions to support the adoption of rights-based internet governance around the world.

The Cost of Shutdown Tool (COST) launches today to mark the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enacted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

COST is a data-driven policy tool that automates the task of assessing the economic impact of internet shutdowns, mobile data blackouts and social media restrictions including throttling.

COST performs calculations by country, type of disruption and length of time, combining thousands of development indicators in real time to offer insights into the impact of internet governance and misgovernance on sustainable development, human rights and digital prosperity.

“This tool will empower the next stage of data-driven advocacy. By calculating numbers in real time, COST will allows us to communicate to governments and technology companies on how much revenue they’re losing when they disrupt the internet. We hope by the tool will make governments think twice before threatening internet freedom, ” Hannah Machlin, Global Advocacy Manager for the NetBlocks Group, said.

“ We believe the opportunities brought by the Internet should be available for everyone and a tool such as COST can help governments understand the economic impact of shutting down or blocking the Internet.  While we can’t quantify the human cost of switching off the Internet, this helps quantify the economic cost,” explains Constance Bommelaer de Leusse, Senior Director Global Internet Policy for The Internet Society.

The COST tool is built upon established research papers published by the Brookings Institution for global coverage and a specialised model by CIPESA for sub-Saharan Africa, taking into account indirect economic factors and informal economies that play a major role in the region. Economic indicators are integrated from open data sources including the World Bank, ITU and Eurostat.

You can read more about it here.

NetBlocks and CIPESA to launch COST tool at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa

Announcement |
LONDON — Today, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and digital rights group NetBlocks are announcing plans for the Africa launch of the Cost of Shutdown Tool – COST, at the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) 2018, set to take place 26 – 28 September, 2018, in Accra, Ghana.
The tool, developed by NetBlocks in collaboration with the Internet Society and first unveiled at RightsCon Toronto in May 2018, is aimed at automating the task of economic estimation of the impact of internet shutdowns, mobile data blackouts and social media restrictions. It draws inspiration from the new model for calculating the economic impact of shutdowns in sub-Saharan Africa launched by CIPESA last September as well as earlier research by the Brookings Institution.

Lаunching the COST tool at FIFAfrica is vital to support the advocacy and documentation efforts against shutdowns on the continent,” Ashnah Kalemera, Programme Manager, CIPESA, said.
“We hope that the economic loss proven by the tool will support litigation efforts as well strengthen pushbacks which will include the private sector”, she added.
CIPESA and NetBlocks will move forward as official partners. Both organisations are part of the #KeepItOn coalition against internet shutdowns, and support fast, reliable and open access to the Internet and knowledge online as a tenet of democracy, freedom of speech and economic prosperity.
“We are ecstatic to be partnering with CIPESA, one of the leading research and policy think-tanks in the region. Their expertise will ensure our work on Africa is accurate and up-to-date”, Hannah Machlin, Global Advocacy Manager, NetBlocks said.
Their collaboration will provide access to new network measurement techniques that can detect telecommunications blackouts and emerging threats to internet freedom in real-time, aiding the development of sustainable rights-based ICT policies.
CIPESA was established in 2004 under the Catalysing Access to Information and Communications Technology in Africa (CATIA) initiative, which was mainly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID). CIPESA works to enable policy makers in the region to understand ICT policy issues, and for various stakeholders to use ICT to improve governance and livelihoods. They currently approach their work through four different but interrelated thematic areas, namely promoting online freedomICT for democracy and civic participation, the right to information, and contributing to internet governance debate at national, regional and global level.
The NetBlocks Group is a civil society initiative building new techniques for network measurement that support freedom of expression and digital transparency, defending access to free and open technology and working on the security and privacy of core internet standards at groups including the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Open Letter To Cameroonian Government On Internet Connectivity In Anglophone Regions

Open Letter |
On January 22, 2017, Civil Society Organizations from around the world sent the following open letter to The President of Cameroon, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, and Minister of Communication, on ongoing Internet blackout in anglophone regions of the country.

Internet Sans Frontières - CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 FR

Internet Sans Frontières – CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 FR

Re: Internet Connectivity in the Republic of Cameroon
Your Excellencies,
We are writing to urgently request that you restore Internet access in the South West and North West regions of Cameroon. Multiple reports, including ours, indicate that your government ordered operators to block communications over the internet in the anglophone regions of the country. [1]
We implore you to keep the internet on.
Research shows that internet shutdowns and violence go hand in hand. [2] Shutdowns disrupt the free flow of information and create a cover of darkness that allows repression to occur without scrutiny. Worryingly, the Republic of Cameroon would be joining an alarming global trend of government-mandated shutdowns around election issues, a practice that many African Union member governments have recently adopted, including:  Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Chad, Gabon, Egypt, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo. [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9]

Internet shutdowns — with governments ordering the suspension or throttling of entire networks, often during elections or public protests — must never be allowed to become the new normal.

Justified for public safety purposes, shutdowns instead cut off access to vital information, e-financing, and emergency services, plunging whole societies into fear and destabilizing the internet’s power to support small business livelihoods and drive economic development. In addition, a study by the Brookings Institution indicates that shutdowns drained $2.4 billion from the global economy last year. [10]
The Internet shutdown imposed in anglophone territories of Cameroon will hit hard on the burgeoning digital economy, which is blossoming in Cameroon’s Silicon Mountain, Buea. [11]
International Law
A growing body of jurisprudence declares shutdowns to violate international law. The United Nations Human Rights Council has spoken out strongly against internet shutdowns. In its 32nd Session, in July 2016, the Council passed by consensus a resolution on freedom of expression and the internet with operative language on internet shutdowns. The resolution, A/HRC/RES/32/13, « condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures. » The Council intended this clear declaration to combat the blocking and throttling of networks, applications, and services that facilitate the freedoms of expression, opinion, and access to information online. In addition, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights stated in its November 2016  Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa that it was “Concerned by the emerging practice of State Parties of interrupting or limiting access to telecommunication services such as the Internet, social media and messaging services, increasingly during elections.” [12]
In 2015, various experts from the United Nations (UN) Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organization of American States (OAS), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), issued an historic statement declaring that internet “kill switches” can never be justified under international human rights law, even in times of conflict. [13] General Comment 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee, the official interpreter of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, emphasizes that restrictions on speech online must be strictly necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate purpose. Shutdowns disproportionately impact all users, and unnecessarily restrict access to information and emergency services communications during crucial moments.
The internet has enabled significant advances in health, education, and creativity, and it is now essential to fully realize human rights including participation in elections and access to information.
We humbly request that you use the vital positions of your good offices to:

  • Ensure that the internet connectivity, including social media, is restored in the anglophone regions of the republic of Cameroon in the coming period
  • Publicly declare your commitment to keep the internet on, including social media
  • Encourage telecommunications and internet services providers to respect human rights, including through public disclosures and transparency reports.

We are happy to assist you in any of these matters.

  • Access Now
  • Internet Sans Frontières
  • Internet Sans Frontières-Togo
  • Africtivistes
  • Cameroon Ô Bosso
  • Droit au Droit
  • Réseau des blogueurs du Burkina Faso
  • Réseau Panafricain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains
  • Afrika Youth Movement
    Voice of Women Initiative
    Coexistence with Alternative Language and Action Movement- Tunisia
  • The Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA)
  • Pen Plus Bytes
  • Unwanted Witness Uganda
  • Center for Media Research
  • Media Foundation for West Africa
  • Campaign for Human Rights and Development
  • African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Paradigm Initiative Nigeria
  • Internet Freedom Forum
  • ADISI-Cameroun
  • Société des Amis de Mongo Beti (SAMBE)

[1] Julie Owono, Regional Internet Blackout In Cameroon (Report by Internet Sans Frontières, 20 January 2017) <
[2] Sarah Myers West, ‘Research Shows Internet Shutdowns and State Violence Go Hand in Hand in Syria’ (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 1 July 2015) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[3] ‘Access urges UN and African Union experts to take action on Burundi internet shutdown’ (Access Now 29 April 2015) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[4] Deji Olukotun, ‘Government may have ordered internet shutdown in Congo-Brazzaville’ (Access Now 20 October 2015) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[5]  Deji Olukotun and Peter Micek, ‘Five years later: the internet shutdown that rocked Egypt’ (Access Now 21 January 2016) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[6] Peter Micek, ‘Update: Mass internet shutdown in Sudan follows days of protest’ (Access Now, 15 October 2013) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[7] Peter Micek, ‘Access submits evidence to International Criminal Court on net shutdown in Central African Republic’(Access Now 17 February 2015) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[8] ‘Niger resorts to blocking in wake of violent protests against Charlie Hebdo cartoons.’ (Access Now Facebook page 26 January 2015) <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[9] Peter Micek, (Access Now 23 January 2015) ‘Violating International Law, DRC Orders Telcos to Cease Communications Services’ <> accessed 18 February 2016.
[10] Darrell West, (Brookings Institution, October 2016) “Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year”
[11] Julie Owono, Cameroon’s Reflection on the “false news” debate stirs censorship fears (Report by Internet Sans Frontières, 22 November 2016) <
[12] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, (November 2016) ‘362: Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa – ACHPR/Res. 362(LIX) 2016’
[13] Peter Micek, (Access Now 4 May 2015) ‘Internet kill switches are a violation of human rights law, declare major UN and rights experts’ <; accessed 18 February 2016.
Originally published here – French Version available here