14 January 2021 – Uganda’s recent social media restrictions during elections is not unique in Africa. It is the 15th African country to do so during elections.
Uganda’s recent social media restrictions is not unique in Africa. According to a recent study conducted by the privacy protection company Surfshark, Uganda became the 15th country in Africa that has restricted social media access due to elections since 2015. Cutting off social media access is a common practice in African countries, especially during elections, protests, demonstrations, or exams. The researchers revealed that at least 27 countries in Africa blocked or heavily restricted social media access over five years.
Over five years, Burundi, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Togo, Tanzania, Benin, DRC, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone have also restricted access to social media due to elections.
“Social media has established itself as a key political player of its own. However, as its influence grows, so does the governments’ desire to censor it by introducing new laws, restricting access, or blocking social media altogether,” says Gabrielle Racai, communications manager at Surfshark.
“What’s especially concerning is the increasing number of countries worldwide that block or censor the internet amid the elections. Governments in Belarus, Tongo, Burundi, and Tanzania have already shut down social media during elections in 2020, whereas Uganda becomes the first country to do so in 2021,” says Racai.
About the social media censorship report:
Privacy protection company Surfshark analysed 185 countries and their social media blocking practices from 2015 to the present day, seeking to evaluate the extent of social media censorship. The research shows that 62 out of the 185 analysed countries blocked or heavily restricted social media access in the past five years.
The data was collected through open-source information from Freedom House, Netblocks, and reputable news reports from 2015 to the present day. Social media was conceptualised as social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) and communication apps, including VoIP apps (i.e., Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber). Both local and national social media blockings have been taken into account in the study.
The final social media censorship report with regional deep-dives can be found here: https://surfshark.com/social-media-blocking.