The Listening Post

Offline and silenced: Internet blackouts are going global

From Kashmir to Iran, governments are turning off the internet to stop dissent. Plus, the murky world of deepfakes.

On this week’s The Listening Post: From Kashmir to Iran, governments are increasingly turning off the internet as a tactic to stop dissent. Plus, politics, porn and the sordid world of deepfakes.

How internet blackouts are going global

Imagine, as you read this, what an internet blackout would mean for you: being shut out of messaging sites, forced off social media, deprived of news and the means to contact loved ones.

Imagine you’re Kashmiri and the Indian government has left you in the dark for the past four months.

Imagine you’re Iranian, and you’ve just experienced your most serious internet shutdown to date.

Both of those blackouts were imposed by governments which said they were trying to prevent “security threats”. However, human rights groups say it has more to do with governments trying to silence dissent.

We explore what is becoming an increasingly common tactic for authoritarian leaders, and the risks it poses to freedom of information and expression.


Mahsa Alimardani – Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute Iran Researcher, Article 19

Adrian Shahbaz – Research director for Technology and Democracy, Freedom House

Jillian C York – Electronic Frontier Foundation

Akriti Bopanna – The Centre for Internet & Society

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Johanna Hoes about the interview Italy’s state broadcaster recorded with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which never made it onto Italian television.

Politics, porn and the toxic world of deepfakes

Famous people will say just about anything these days. Did you hear Kim Kardashian owning up to manipulating public data for money? Or Mark Zuckerberg admitting to abusing the private information of Facebook users?

If you did, were you convinced? You shouldn’t be. Those words were placed in the mouths of those celebrities in so-called “deepfakes” – videos produced through the use of artificial intelligence, melding images and sound, which appear so real it’s difficult to tell if they’re fake.

The vast majority of deepfakes currently online involve putting the heads of celebrities onto pornstars’ bodies. That’s where the money is.

The bigger concern, however, is that deepfakes could be used to spread misinformation, mess with politics, manipulate electorates by fooling journalists and voters.

The Listening Post‘s Tariq Nafi takes a look at the murky world of deepfakes – and a future where we won’t be able to trust our own eyes.


Henry Ajder – Head of Communications and Research Analysis, Deeptrace

Britt Paris – Professor of information science, Rutgers University

Bill Posters – Artist and researcher