Internet Shutdowns in Africa

Amused

Village Elder
#1
The internet shutdown that engulfed Ethiopia this week caught many by surprise.

While at the hotel on the morning of June 11, I lost connectivity midway through writing an email to a source. Half an hour later, I walked into a branch of the country’s sole mobile operator Ethio Telecom to purchase a SIM card. After setting up my device, the saleswoman couldn’t understand why the internet wasn’t connecting on my phone. Maybe your handset, she innocently quipped, is “too old” or “has a problem.”

At the time, what I—and she, hopefully—didn’t know then was that we were in the early hours of a days-long, nationwide digital blackout. Authorities restricted social media platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram and disabled SMS text messaging in measures aimed at deterring cheating during national secondary school exams. What followed was a numbing, exasperating experience, akin to waking up in a subterranean, benighted world. Besides impacting businesses increasingly reliant on online transactions, the internet suspension also hampered the operations of the nascent but rising tech sector popularly known as Sheba Valley.

There has been a marked rise in recorded web disruptions globally, but African countries are dominating the leader board of national shutdowns in 2019. Sudan, DR Congo, and Chad are among countries that entered the year totally or partially offline, and they have since been joined by the likes of Algeria, Benin, Eritrea, Mauritania, Liberia, and Somalia. The orders for these interruptions are mostly coming from those at the helm, with dictatorships and partial democracies the biggest offenders.
Regulators and telecommunication companies aren’t providing advance warnings or justification for these suspensions too—even though some have linked them to preserving public safety, limiting hate speech, and reducing exam cheats.

Given the alarming frequency of these stoppages, activists say we have a reached “a new high” that should raise concern worldwide. Africa is the least-connected continent globally, but the upsurge in smartphone adoption, decreasing data costs, and declining phone prices has only amplified the place of the internet as a transformative tool. That’s why the blackouts are harmful not just for economic growth and democracy but also for social cohesion, innovation, net neutrality, and freedom of expression. Besides targeted shutdowns, authorities are also using surveillance, arbitrary legislation, along with taxation to silence digital users.

The internet is now back in Ethiopia with operator Ethio Telecom apologizing for the interruptions. But that doesn’t necessarily vindicate the company, and certainly doesn’t assuage the fear of millions of users who might endure a similar experience in the future.

Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Nairobi correspondent
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#5
yes, really. i see us increasingly abusing the space we have to spread hate speech and propaganda that threatens social order. we shouldn't give the authorities a reason to shut us down.
Shutting down internet/ blanket ban is an admission that the state has failed in containing criminal elements.
 

Teddy_time

Village Elder
#8
Such tactics are and will continue to be in the playbook of dictorships.

In a case like Ethiopia, it is imperative that the coup plotters be stopped by cutting off the ability of these guys to coordinate and also ensuring that the people cant be mobilized against the authorities.

For example, the same thing happemed during the Arab Spring when internet was cut off
 

gashwin

Village Chief
#10
Shutting down internet/ blanket ban is an admission that the state has failed in containing criminal elements.
how many prisons do you need to jail every kenyan who has ever published hate speech against one demographic or the other? how many courts to try them? how many man-hours tracking them down? citizens are supposed to be good people protected from the bad/criminal elements by their government but not bad people such that their government has to resort to drastic actions to control them.
 
#11
how many prisons do you need to jail every kenyan who has ever published hate speech against one demographic or the other? how many courts to try them? how many man-hours tracking them down? citizens are supposed to be good people protected from the bad/criminal elements by their government but not bad people such that their government has to resort to drastic actions to control them.
How much money does government waste on tea? Hiyo pesa waunde jela na waandike polisi wa kutosha. Those who spread hate speech are usually very few.
 
#16
When you have cockroaches in your house, you fumigate the whole place.
When the internet will be switched on they will still be in the country. They will not have died or left. People should be prosecuted to set an example. I am sure if there are hate mongers the government can track them down.
 

Amused

Village Elder
#17
When the internet will be switched on they will still be in the country. They will not have died or left. People should be prosecuted to set an example. I am sure if there are hate mongers the government can track them down.
In Kenya, tribalism becomes a hot issue only during elections. In the Ethiopian example, apparently Ethiopians make Kenyan exam cheats look like kindergartners. It is during these times that people raise the bar on internet irresponsibility.

IMHO, the main reason is that the rapid adoption of technology has made people more informed and savvy in spreading their version of the "truth." But a half-informed neophyte is more dangerous than an unformed or fully informed person. Thus, I opine that this is a development phase and certain actions may be necessary. However, it is infuriating and hampers economic development for the time the shut downs are implemented because they affect law abiding citizens as well.
 

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