CIPESA, AIRA Stand Against Twitter Ban In Nigeria

Statement |

The African Internet Alliance (AIRA) is concerned about the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria. This ban is part of a growing trend that curtails freedom of expression and hampers online economic activity. AIRA urges the Nigerian Government to rescind this decision, which is arbitrary, and instead should seek alternative ways of dealing with Twitter.

CIPESA alongside alliance members including Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, BudgIT, the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), the Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet), the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) and Paradigm Initiative.

The Africa Internet Rights Alliance (AIRA) undertakes collective interventions and executes strategic campaigns that engage the government, private sector, media and civil society to institute and safeguard digital rights.

Online Chat On Internet Shutdowns

Online Chat |
On Friday December 15, 2017, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) will spend some time sharing insights on internet shutdowns. Between 15h00 and 16h00 East African Time (EAT) we will explore the spate of shutdowns affecting Sub-Saharan Africa and the efforts to navigate them.

Have you experienced an internet shutdown? Are you experiencing a shutdown? What work or insights would you like to share around this issue? What is the way forward?

We will also share insights on the economic impact of internet shutdowns with reference to a new framework we developed on calculating the Economic Impact of Internet Disruptions in Sub-Saharan Africa
A few of the documented cases of deliberate interruption of digital communications in sub-Sahara Africa in December thus far include an ongoing shutdown in Anglophone regions of Cameroon which as of today has run for 75 days. An earlier shutdown in the same region lasted 93 days. This week also Ethiopia experienced interruptions to its communications – primarily Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter due to protests in the Oromia region. Further afield, in Yemen, there were reports of some internet filtering, blocking, throttling, and social media shutdowns.
Join the discussion and share your views on how we can #KeepItOn and protect #InternetFreedomAfrica 

The Growing Trend of African Governments’ Requests for User Information and Content Removal From Internet and Telecom Companies

Policy Brief |
The relationship between communications service providers, users and governments with regards to data protection, requests of user information and content take downs is increasingly taking centre stage in discussions around free, open and secure use of digital technologies.
In February 2017, Millicom issued its second Law Enforcement Disclosure Report. Millicom’s report is one of many by private companies aimed at promoting transparency and accountability, through periodically publishing reports detailing information on government requests for user data, content removals, and compliance with those requests.
Google is credited with being the first internet company to publish a transparency report back in 2009, followed by Twitter in 2012. Facebook and Yahoo have published reports since 2013. Vodafone and Orange were among the first telecommunications companies to publish transparency reports, both in 2014.
These reports have become vital to understanding censorship, surveillance and more importantly the commitment of service providers to protecting the privacy of their users and promoting freedom of expression online. Based on the reports alone, it remains unclear what the true extent of governments’ surveillance of citizens’ communications and censorship of content across the world is. Nonetheless, the reports indicate a growing trend among countries, including African governments, of requests for subscribers’ data and content removal.
On the social media front, from five African countries being listed by Facebook among those that requested users’ details in the first half of 2013, the number on the continent has grown to 18 as at the end of 2016. Meanwhile, requests to remove content from Google have also grown from only Libya in 2010 and 2011, to four African countries in 2016 alone. Twitter, which only received one user information request from South Sudan in 2012, has since gone on to receive requests from an additional four countries on the continent. The countries which have consistently made requests for user information to Google, Facebook and Twitter include South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya and Egypt.
In telecommunications, figures are scanty as only four companies operating in Africa issue transparency reports – one of which, MTN, does not disclose any statistics while Vodafone’s extent of disclosure is limited due to legal provisions in some of its countries of operation that prohibit publishing of such information. Even then, user data requests from five African governments to Millicom have increased from 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 7,000 in 2016. Requests to Orange from the 20 African countries where it had operations as at the end of 2016 have tripled in the past three years – from 22,930 in 2014 to 67,718 in 2016.
In this brief, we provide a summary of the user data and content removal requests which governments in Africa have made to select internet and telecommunications companies in recent years.

Ugandans Turn to Proxies, VPN in Face of Social Media Shutdown

| By CIPESA Writer
On the morning of the highly anticipated general elections in Uganda, citizens woke up to no access to social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. The popular mobile phone-based financial transaction service commonly known as Mobile Money was also offline.
Tech-savvy Ugandans keen to keep information on the electioneering process flowing turned to sharing information on proxies and apps that enable circumventing the blockage through Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Within hours, as more and more citizens got back online, there was a spike in social media activity. By 1pm local time, the hashtag #UgandaDecides recorded 35,000 tweets. Three hours later at 4pm, the number of tweets with this hashtag had jumped to 56,000. By 5pm, the hashtag boasted over 64,000 tweets. As at 7pm, the figure stood at over double that of 1pm and was still growing.
Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, is standing in the current elections and faces perhaps the strongest electoral challenge ever to his three-decade rule. Ugandan citizens’ level of online civic engagement was sparked by the first ever televised presidential debates, the first of which was held in January and the second just last week. During both debates, #UgandaDecides alongside #UGDebate16 trended, raising some level of trust in the electioneering process.
But this trust seems to have been turned on its head today. Internet services in various areas of the country have been intermittent, leaving many unable to access information. Leading telecommunications service provider MTN issued a statement confirming that Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the regulator, had “directed MTN to disable all social media and mobile money services due to a threat to public order and safety.” There has been no communication from any of the other service providers including Vodafone, which has championed disclosure of government requests for user information and surveillance support through its annual Transparency reports.
An official at the communications regulator confirmed to the local Daily Monitor newspaper that they directed ISPs to block access to social media sites over “national security” concerns related to the “sensitive” elections period.
As the day progressed, growing numbers of citizens were able to share updates on late arrivals of voting materials at various stations, reports of election malpractice, and provisional election results.
Previous election periods in Uganda have seen a crackdown on social media, voices critical of the ruling party, and independent media in the guise of promoting public order and unity as well as preventing the spread of false information. The 2011 elections were marked with filtering of short message services (SMS) which contained certain words.
Today’s blockage is for an indeterminate period.
See also State of Internet Freedom in Uganda reports 2014 and 2015.