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India Shuts Down Social Media in Indian Kashmir to control widening Street protests and growing Violence in the Region

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Kashmiri students browse the internet on their mobile phones as they sits inside a restaurant in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 26, 2017. On Wednesday, authorities ordered internet service providers to block 16 social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, and popular online chat applications for one month "in the interest of maintenance of public order." VOA
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Indian authorities hope sweeping restrictions placed on social media in Indian Kashmir will help control widening street protests and growing violence in the region. But observers say the latest order will do little to stem growing alienation in the restive Himalayan region.

Authorities have shut down 22 social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter for a month. The official order asking internet service providers to block the sites said they are being used by “anti-national and subversive elements” for “vitiating peace and tranquility” in the state.

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Kashmir has often faced restrictions on the internet, and even mobile phone services have been shut at times. But the latest clampdown is much wider in its scope and comes as social media begins to play a larger role in an increasingly volatile situation in India’s only Muslim-majority region.

Viral videos

In the past three weeks, graphic videos claiming to show abuses by security forces have gone viral. The one getting the most attention shows a young man strapped to the front of an army jeep and paraded around villages in the region.

School and college students have emerged on the streets for the first time to join mobs throwing stones at security forces, and earlier this month, eight people were killed in a violence-marred parliamentary election.

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Officials say social media is not just being used to spread images, but also to rally crowds that attack security forces. A police officer in Kashmir, who did not want to be quoted, said the order will help check the spread of rumors.

Adding to the anger

However banning social media will do little to address the rising tide of anti-India sentiment, said Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the Rising Kashmir newspaper in Srinagar.

“If there is so much of anger, it actually adds to that anger, it does not help to recede (quell) that anger,” he said.

Pointing to the presence of students in street protests, he said, “Every section of society has now got involved into that churning where people think that they don’t have any allegiance to India, and they don’t like the country.”

Kashmiri students and other protesters throw stones at an Indian police vehicle as they clash with police in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 24, 2017.
Kashmiri students and other protesters throw stones at an Indian police vehicle as they clash with police in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 24, 2017. VOA

More than a decade of relative peace began deteriorating last summer in Kashmir after security forces killed local militant leader Burhan Wani. Analysts say this summer promises to be no different.

Colleges and schools in Kashmir have been shut for more than a week as India tries to quell the near daily protests.

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On Thursday, three Indian soldiers died and five others were injured in a pre-dawn attack on an army camp by militants in Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Two militants were also killed.

Delhi takes a hard line

Earlier this week, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, visited New Delhi and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open dialogue to contain the deteriorating situation in the state. She told reporters he wanted to hold talks after the situation normalizes.

Analysts say the Hindu nationalist federal government appears to be taking a hard line against the protesters.

Bukhari said the problem in Kashmir is larger than a social media problem.

“It is a political problem,” he said, “and as long as you continue to remain in denial mode like this and do not do anything political, these measures will not get you anywhere.” (VOA)

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Half The Global Population Uses The Internet: ITU Report

The ITU says countries that are hooked into the digital economy do better in their overall economic well-being and competitiveness.

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Youths are seen browsing the internet inside the venue of the launch of Google free wifi project in Lagos, Nigeria. VOA

The International Telecommunication Union reports that for the first time in history, half of the global population is using the internet. A new report finds by the end of the year, 3.9 billion people worldwide will be online.

The report finds access to and use of information and communication technologies around the world is trending upwards. It notes most internet users are in developed countries, with more than 80 percent of their populations online. But it says internet use is steadily growing in developing countries, increasing from 7.7 percent in 2005 to 45.3 percent this year.

The International Telecommunication Union says Africa is the region with the strongest growth, where the percentage of people using the internet has increased from just over two percent in 2005 to nearly 25 percent in 2018.

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A Somali man browses the internet on his mobile phone at a beach in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. VOA

The lowest growth rates, it says, are in Europe and the Americas, with the lowest usage found in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to data on internet usage, newly released statistics show mobile access to basic telecommunication services is becoming more predominant. ITU Senior Statistician, Esperanza Magpantay says access to higher speed mobile and fixed broadband also is growing.

“So, there is almost 96 percent of the population who are now covered by mobile population signal of which 90 percent are covered by 3G access. So, this is a high figure, and this helps explain why we have this 51 percent of the population now using the internet,” she said.

With the growth in mobile broadband, Magpantay says there has been an upsurge in the number of people using the internet through their mobile devices.

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Young men surf the internet at a cyber cafe on June 20, 2012 in Kibera slum in Nairobi.

The ITU says countries that are hooked into the digital economy do better in their overall economic well-being and competitiveness. Unfortunately, it says the cost of accessing telecommunication networks remains too high and unaffordable for many.

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It says prices must be brought down to make the digital economy a reality for the half the world’s people who do not, as yet, use the internet. (VOA)