The Mongolian parliament has passed a law that would give the minister of internal affairs the right to decide when to shut down the Internet.

The law, which will take effect on February 1 unless Mongolian President Ukhnaagiin Khürelsükh vetoes it, also gives wide-ranging powers over the censorship of online speech.

Ulanqab Railway Station.jpg
– Wikimedia Commons/N509FZ

The 'Law on Protecting Human Rights' would give the minister of internal affairs the new power of shutting down the Internet or reducing its spread. It would also create a public relations unit tasked with enforcing regulations on social media.

The group would be able to censor content that includes "denigrating state symbols, national, historical and cultural values, culture and customs of Mongolia."

The bill was rushed through parliament - announced on the 17th, submitted on the 18th, and then passed on the 20th. Media and opposition politicians were given little time to research or debate the bill.

Governments have long used Internet shutdowns to try to suppress political demonstrations or protests, but the process can sometimes backfire. “Shutdowns are followed by an escalation in violent protests," censorship and connectivity researcher Jan Rydzak told DCD in 2019. "People will always find a conduit for protest. Social media is just a platform for people to vent their frustration and anger."

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