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Shutdowns, Throttling and Stifling Dissent Online: Africa’s New Normal

Posted By: RumorMail
Date: Tuesday, 10-Nov-2020 11:19:46
www.rumormill.news/157763

In Response To: Twitter Surveys Users on their Ethnicity when it Warns them for 'Wrongthink'!! (RumorMail)

Mustn't have the peons complain about their governments...

Lynda

***************************************

By Khattab Hamad and Nwachukwu Egbunike

Editor’s note: This is a two-part analysis on the growing trend of using school examinations, mass protests or elections as a ruse to either switch off the internet or clamp down on digital media in six African countries: Algeria, Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Read Part II here.
https://globalvoices.org/2020/11/09/shutdowns-throttling-and-stifling-dissent-online-africas-new-normal-part-ii/

In the last four months, full or partial internet blackouts occurred in five African countries: Algeria, Ethiopia, Guinea, Sudan, and Tanzania. The Nigerian government is currently considering legislation to clamp down on social media.

Total shutdowns result from a full internet blackout while partial includes restricted access or throttling, which intentionally shrinks data bandwidth.

Since 2007, when Guinea became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to switch off the internet, digital blackouts have gradually grown to become the new normal on the continent.

During the coronavirus pandemic, African governments have exploited the public health crisis as a ruse to limit digital rights while entrenching their power, according to the 2020 State of Internet Freedom in Africa report by the Collaboration on Internet ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA). Ironically, these blackouts during a pandemic exacerbated the mis- and dis-information problem within many multilingual, online communities.

However, the coronavirus pandemic was not the only excuse employed by African governments. There is a growing trend to instrumentalize school examinations and politically charged moments like mass protests and elections to stifle digital freedom.

With these growing authoritarian tendencies to switch off or throttle the internet, what is the social and political impact within each context and country?

Here’s a round-up of some of the most recent scenarios across the continent:
Algeria

Algeria recorded a nationwide disruption of internet access on Sunday, September 13, which left many users with “unusably slow service for several days”, reports NetBlocks.

Confirmed: Internet cut in #Algeria following social media restrictions earlier today; real-time network data show significant impact to state-run operator Algeria Telecom (AS36947) in apparent bid to counter baccalaureate school exam leaks #Algérie 📵

📰 https://t.co/yaxxwBjJo4 pic.twitter.com/mrMfCzZbJc

— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) September 13, 2020

More than half a million Algerian pupils started their baccalaureate exams on September 13. The internet restrictions were part of measures to restrict the distribution of leaked examination papers.

Those not taking exams were still forced to bear the brunt of a digital blackout and this violation of users’ rights was disregarded by the government.

Algeria is a “leader” of internet shutdowns in Africa in 2019, according to digital rights advocacy group Access Now.


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