The cases of African countries restricting the internet or blocking Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp access are increasing.
This is becoming more common in some African countries, where governments cut the internet on certain occasions or block social media platforms. Advocates of the right to access the internet talk about censorship, but governments say it helps maintain security.
So, where and which African countries are blocking access to the internet?
A government can restrict access to the internet by ordering Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to restrict their subscribers’ access. Most often, this is a blockage of commonly used social media platforms. As a more extreme measure, authorities can order service providers to block all Internet access.
The cases of Internet shutdowns in Africa are increasing. Tanzania restricted access to the internet and social media apps in recent elections.
In June 2020, Ethiopia imposed an internet shutdown that lasted for nearly a month in response to the unrest following the murder of prominent Oromo singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa.
Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, and Guinea also restricted access to the internet or social media in 2020 at different times.
In 2019, there were 25 documented cases of partial or total internet shutdowns, up from 20 in 2018 and 12 in 2017, according to Access Now, an independent watchdog. And the group says that in 2019, seven of the 14 countries that blocked access had not done so in the previous two years.
The new African countries to block access to the internet are Benin, Gabon, Eritrea, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, and Zimbabwe.
This is part of a global trend. More and more countries are limiting internet access, up to 213 internet shutdowns worldwide, up from 106 in 2017. The Access Now group says that most internet restrictions in Africa tend to affect entire countries rather than specific regions or groups of people.
Last year, 21 of the 25 cuts recorded by the group affected entire countries or most parts of the country.
Only Sudan and Ethiopia had carried out targeted internet shutdowns. “This indicates that the closures are not only more and more numerous, they are also growing and affecting more and more people in Africa,” said the group.