Africa’s Internet Shutdowns – A report on the Johannesburg Workshop
Internet shutdowns – where access to the internet is cut off within a country’s borders – are not a new phenomenon; it is the increasing scope and scale that make this an urgent issue. In India, there were more than 130 separate instances of government-ordered internet shutdowns in 2018; while the African continent holds the record for the longest shutdowns, with countries like Cameroon and Chad as particularly notable cases. Choosing to shut off access to the internet is choosing a particularly blunt instrument, one that appeals to certain governments, but also one
that is unlikely to persist or remain unchanged as governments increase their surveillance capacity and improve their more targeted tools for co-opting and manipulating public opinion.
Given the urgency of this issue in the African context, a workshop on internet shutdowns was jointly convened by the University of Oxford’s Programme in Comparative Media Law & Policy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and the University of Johannesburg’s School of Communication in 2018 in Johannesburg. It hosted two dozen participants across the continent representing a wide array of academic disciplines and practitioner fields, including from law, communications, and computer science disciplines, and from the legal, advocacy, and technology sectors. Countries discussed included: Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
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