Posted by Richard Willet Posted on 10 November 2020

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

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.

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