How African governments block social media

Digital Content

A small but increasing group of African governments is blocking social media during elections. Clare Spencer asks why and how this is done and how people get around it.

Why are African governments blocking social media?

It is safe to say governments aren't blocking social media to cut off the supply of cute kitten pictures.

It's political.

African tweeters tend to be more political than tweeters in other continents, according to research by Portland Communications.

And governments are blocking social media during elections - most recently in Congo-Brazzaville, Chad and Uganda.

For an indication of the political impact social media can make, you just need to look at the uprisings during the "Arab Spring".

"Social media did not cause the 'Arab Spring' but helped to co-ordinate it," Arthur Goldstuck from technology market research company Worldwide Worx, told the BBC.

Governments do not say they are worried that social media could pave the way for popular protests or even a revolution.

But security is often cited - including in the order for mobile operators to stop services in Congo-Brazzaville.

Congolese officials added that they were trying to prevent the "illegal publication of results".

Newsweek interpreted this as a possible attempt to thwart the efforts of election monitors.

The advent of the mobile phone enabled local observer groups to collate the results from individual polling stations around the country and add them up to see if the results were being rigged.

If mobile phones don't work, this can no longer be done.
Read the full story here: