As internet access becomes more prevalent around the world, so too do attempts to suppress it. According to digital rights organization Access Now, there were more than 50 attempts by governments to shut down the internet during 2016.

Access to internet was cut for a variety of reasons throughout the year, including several attempts to stifle dissent and affect outcomes of the democratic process.

Deji Olukotun, the senior global advocacy manager at Access Now, told the Inter Press Service an internet shutdown was imposed in Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni–including a blackout of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter —on the morning of election day.

Other African countries experienced similar crackdowns on access to social media, including Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia and Chad.

Just this month, the presidential election in Gambia was mired by online interference as a rare challenger to president Yahya Jammeh emerged. Internet access and all international calls were suspended by the country in the day leading up to the election, which resulted in Jammeh being re-elected to continue on his 22-year rule over the nation.

Other nations opted to cut access to the internet to solve much smaller problems. At least three countries blocked the internet in order to prevent students from cheating on exams, including Iraq, which has a history of shutting down the internet for this very purpose.

In the most troubling cases, the internet was blocked in order to hide atrocities committed by the government. This was the case in Ethiopia, where a consistent blockade on the internet and social media has reportedly attempted to hide the deaths of hundreds of protesters attempting to express their grievances against the government.

The shutdowns are costly endeavours for the countries that attempt to implement them. According to a recently published paper from the Brookings Institute, internet shutdowns cost $2.4 billion in 2015.

Luckily, many countries are spending a considerable amount to expand access to the internet rather than suspend it. “On the whole most governments want to expand internet access,” Olukotun said. “Many of them see it as an opportunity to participate in the global economy and be competitive.”

Efforts by companies like Google and Facebook to expand access have helped bolster interest in connectivity—though aren’t without their own challenges —and tools like Virtual Private Networks and encrypted messaging apps have made it easier for citizens of oppressive governments to continue to communicate online despite limited access.

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