Africa sees political internet shutdowns spike in H1

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 28 Jul 2023
The first half of 2023 saw twice as many African countries imposing online political restrictions.
The first half of 2023 saw twice as many African countries imposing online political restrictions.

The first half of this year saw six African countries impose internet restrictions for political reasons. This is twice as many restrictions on the continent compared to the first half of 2022, says Surfshark.

The cyber security company’s analysis is based on the Internet Shutdown Tracker, which found a total of 82 cases of internet restrictions imposed globally in the first half of the year.

Thetracker states that undemocratic governments disrupt their countries’ networkconnection and social media access as a way to silence the public in times of unrest. The study includes cases from 2015 onwards.

The latest report found that 42 of the internet disruption cases were new, including those in six African nations: Ethiopia, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Sudan and Tanzania.

All of Africa’s new restrictions were imposed amid protests or other political turmoil, says Surfshark. Furthermore, the restrictions were either network connection or social media disruptions in nature.

“Today, billions of people are subjected to internet restrictions, which continue to increase at an alarming rate. Internet restrictions often happen in times of political unrest, such as protests, controversial elections, or even military action – which is when people need to be connected to one another the most,” explains Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske, Surfshark spokesperson.

According to Surfshark, protests were the leading cause of government-imposed internet restrictions globally, with more than two-thirds of the new disruptions (30) triggered by public demonstrations.

In Ethiopia, social media access was restricted in February, amid protests over the split of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, it reveals.

East African nation Tanzania also temporarily restricted social audio platform Clubhouse, frequently used by activists and the diaspora, in February, amid political turmoil.

Sudan imposed a series of nationwide internet restrictions starting in April, following armed conflict between rival factions of military forces, according to the Surfshark analysis.

Mauritania imposed two nationwide internet restrictions: in March during protests over a prison riot, as well as in May, amid protests after the death of an individual in police custody.

Guinea imposed social media restrictions in May, amid anti-government demonstrations.

Senegal temporarily restricted social media and mobile internet access due to protests over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in June.

Meanwhile, Surfshark notes Burkina Faso and Eritrea have long-term restrictions that were ongoing before the start of the year and continued throughout the first half of the year.

“When the internet is restricted, people are left with limited opportunity for spreading information to the rest of the world, organising protests and medical aid for the people in need, and contacting friends and loved ones.

“It’s important to spread the word on this because the people affected often have limited opportunity to do so themselves,” comments Racaityte-Krasauske.