Access Now denounces Israel's grip on Gaza's internet
A new report released by Access Now, a leading digital rights organization, has laid bare the mechanisms by which Israel is disrupting internet and telecommunications access in Gaza, effectively isolating the Palestinian population during critical times of conflict. Titled "How Israel disrupts Gaza's internet," the report details the extent of control and interference that Israel exercises over Gaza's digital lifelines.
Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now, highlights the severity of the situation, "Israel's horrific attacks on the two million people in the Gaza Strip — including their homes, refugee camps, medical facilities, and telecommunications infrastructure — is being compounded by the occupier's deliberate control over information flows and internet access."
The report comes in the wake of continuous disruptions to internet services in the region, with the latest data showing significant connectivity issues since October 9. According to the findings, 15 out of 19 internet service providers examined were completely shut down, affecting an estimated 411,000 people in Gaza and 34,000 in the West Bank. The remaining four providers experienced substantial disruptions to their services.
The consequences of these actions are far-reaching, with internet traffic in Gaza plummeting by over 80% throughout October 2023. This drastic reduction is attributed to direct attacks on civilian telecommunications infrastructure, restrictions on electricity, and technical disruptions to services. These blackouts not only hinder communication but also provide cover for potential human rights violations, with the local population left without a means to report or document such events.
Access Now's report urges immediate action from governments and internet service providers to restore connectivity in Gaza. It calls for innovative solutions, such as the provision of international e-SIM cards, and emphasizes the need for reliable access to internet and telecommunications services. The report also implores the international community to join forces in ending internet shutdowns and disruptions, as well as supporting the Palestinian people's right to develop their telecommunications infrastructure, as per the Oslo Accords.
Founded in 2009, Access Now is dedicated to defending and extending digital civil rights globally. The organization is known for its annual RightsCon conference, its #KeepItOn index tracking internet shutdowns, and its support for Tor network infrastructure. Operating as a non-profit with legal entities in different regions worldwide, Access Now continues its advocacy with funding from various significant donors, including Facebook, Global Affairs Canada, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.