Despots and Disruptions: Five Dimensions of Internet Shutdowns in Africa

Protests in Zimbabwe, 2017.

Protests in Zimbabwe, 2017. (Photo: Zimbabwean-eyes)

African governments increasingly use internet disruptions as a tool to prevent information sharing and popular mobilization during elections or periods of conflict. In the first three weeks of 2019 alone, the governments of Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Zimbabwe blocked citizens’ access to the internet and social media. Over the last three years, governments in Africa that are less democratic or have been in power for the longest are more likely to order internet disruptions. All the African countries that have disrupted internet access in 2019 are authoritarian. Internet blackouts threaten election freedom and human rights and cause serious economic disruptions.

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