Prepare, Prevent, Resist: The OPTIMA Internet Shutdowns Resource Library

The OPTIMA Library is a compilation of new and existing resources, guides, methodologies, and more to assist individuals and activists before, during, and after an Internet shutdown.

Some governments treat the internet like a water tap – slowing access down to a drip or even turning it off entirely to prevent citizens from sharing information, silence citizens, stifle political opposition, and ultimately stay in power. States have a large arsenal of tools at their disposal to limit internet access; from blocking specific social media platforms, to shutting down broadband and mobile services, or even throttling (slowing) internet bandwidth so it can take an hour to upload a short video. Activists and internet users, however, find themselves too often under-resources and under-prepared. This library seeks to help by serving as a one-stop-shop for individuals looking to better prepare for, respond to, and advocacy against internet shutdowns. 

So what are internet shutdowns? Shutdowns are among the most extreme and draconian censorship tactics that governments use to control speech and stifle civic participation; shutdowns not only deny citizens their rights to expression and information, but also threaten health, safety, and economic security. While the reasons governments publicly give for these shutdowns may differ (fighting fake news! preventing cheating on exams! national security!), the message they send to their citizens is the same: we control you.

OPTIMA has spent two years mapping community capacity to respond, and has curated the following library to respond to gaps and needs identified by our trusted network of partners. To learn more, check out our comprehensive needs assessment report here

This library contains resources that support community driven action before, during, and after a shutdown has occurred

Not sure where to start, or which resources to use?

Take our Internet shutdown risk and advocacy assessment to receive a customized guide for conducting advocacy in your specific context, including relevant resources and recommendations.

Do you have a resource to add? This is a constantly evolving library so please share it with us by clicking here!

The resources in this library have been sorted into four distinct categories. These categories, defined below, were identified by our global network as the most pressing cross-cutting components of resilient advocacy communities.

Designing effective advocacy campaigns around Internet shutdowns can be challenging. This section provides guidance and examples to support you in building impactful messaging and getting the word out even during a crisis.

The library includes resources such as:

  • Access Now’s KeepItOn Toolkit on conducting Advocacy around elections
  • A series by Witness on capturing video documentation during a shutdown
  • A report on strategies to document and communicate rights violations during a shutdown
  • Research reports illustrating shutdowns’ impact on communities
  • Guides on reaching wider audiences through campaign design

Understanding how to continue your work and maintain communications can be a daunting task. This section outlines some of the tools that you can use, and guides to help you determine which is best for your specific needs.

The library includes resources such as:

  • EFF’s guide on choosing the VPN that’s right for you
  • Non-technical guides on strategies to bypass internet shutdowns 
  • Introductions to Psiphon, F-Droid and other tools to circumvent blockages

Sometimes the most effective way to challenge or prevent a shutdown is to do so through the courts. This section includes resources, strategies, and legal landscape reviews to help you build and argue strong litigation.

The library includes resources such as:

  • Guides on conducting strategic litigation to address governments’ use of shutdowns
  • How to navigate country-level and regional legal mechanisms to challenge shutdowns in court
  • Reviews of laws and legal frameworks that relate to the use of shutdowns as a tool by governments

A key element to fighting against shutdowns is understanding when and how they happen in your country. Network Measurement is a critical tool to reinforce advocacy with data.

The library includes resources such as:

  • How to use various measurement tools  to document instances of network disruptions and shutdowns. Those tools include
  •  OONI
    • IODA
    • Google Transparency Report
    • Censored Planet
    • M-Lab
  • Links to key measurement resources and data repositories to map shutdown use around the world

Browse the Resource Library

To browse resources that are relevant and useful to you, please use the navigation features below that filter the library by issue area (definitions above), resource type, and language.

Prince Madziwa, OPTIMA

Effects of network disruptions on health service delivery among private practicing physicians in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Zimbabwe

This report, developed by Prince Madziwa with support from OPTIMA, outlines the impact of Internet shutdowns and disruptions on the health delivery system in Zimbabwe. His study is based off of interviews with patients and private practicing physicians who increasingly rely on telehealth structures.
Advocacy
Report
Understanding Shutdowns' Impact
Florence Madenga, OPTIMA

Lessons Learned: Advocacy, Strategy, and Internet Shutdowns in Cameroon

This report, developed by OPTIMA in collaboration with Florence Madenga at the University of Pennsylvania as well as AfroLeadership, explores advocacy strategies before, during, and after the 2017-2018 internet shutdowns in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, and seeks to identify lessons learned and best practices for future advocacy.
Advocacy
Report
Understanding Shutdowns' Impact
Sandra Aceng, OPTIMA

The Impact of Internet Shutdowns on Women in Uganda

This report, funded by OPTIMA and developed by Sandra Aceng, investigates the impact of the 2021 Ugandan shutdown on Women.
Advocacy
Report
Understanding Shutdowns' Impact
Witness

Witness Shutdown Archives

This series developed by Witness offers useful tips and approaches to capturing and preserving video documentation during a shutdown.
Advocacy
Advocacy Best Practices
Report
Bytes for All

Killswitch, Pakistan

This platform aggregates measurement data to provide a country-level snapshot of shutdowns in Pakistan
Collecting and Analyzing Data
Network Measurement
Tool
SFLC

Shutdown Tracker, India

This platform, developed and run by SFLC.in, aggregates measurement data to provide a country-level snapshot of shutdowns in India
Collecting and Analyzing Data
Network Measurement
Tool