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    What is the Blocking and Filtering of Content?

    Module 3: Access to the Internet

    Although a less drastic measure than a complete internet shutdown, the blocking and filtering of content online can also hinder the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.

    Blocking/filtering has been defined as follows:

    “[T]he difference between “filtering” and “blocking” is a matter of scale and perspective.

    – Filtering is commonly associated with the use of technology that blocks pages by reference to certain characteristics, such as traffic patterns, protocols or keywords, or on the basis of their perceived connection to content deemed inappropriate or unlawful;

    – Blocking, by contrast, usually refers to preventing access to specific websites, domains, IP addresses, protocols or services included on a blacklist.”(1)

    For example, internet shutdowns have been common in parts of Myanmar for some time. Since the February 2021 coup d’état, the military regime that assumed power has repeatedly resorted to internet shutdowns as one of an array of repressive digital tools. The throttling of internet access has taken different forms in Myanmar, namely national blackouts, regional blackouts and impeding access through speed restrictions and increased data fees.(2) UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the right to privacy and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, ‘Myanmar: UN experts condemn military’s “digital dictatorship”’ (2022), (accessible at:

    Much international attention has focussed on the military regime in Myanmar’s use of internet shutdowns due their frequent and protracted nature.  However, this is far from the only example of this practice in South and Southeast Asia.  In 2021, internet shutdowns were also documented in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.(4)


    1. ARTICLE 19, ‘Freedom of expression unfiltered: How blocking and filtering affect free speech’, October 2016 at p 7 (accessible at: Back
    2. Athan, ‘Internet Access Amid Darkness and Lives Amid Threats’, May 2022 (accessible: Back
    3. The military regime’s imposition of internet shutdowns and other barriers to internet access was condemned in a strongly worded June 2022 joint statement from multiple UN Special Rapporteurs. Back
    4. Access Now, ‘The Return of Digital Authoritarianism: Internet Shutdowns in 2021’, p. 4 (accessible at: Back