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Social media
censorship tracker

UPDATED

7, September, 2021

To include the latest information on social media shutdowns.

We have analyze
social media blocking in 193 UN countries
from 2015 to the present day

Shutdowns on social media services have become an increasingly popular measure for oppressive regimes to control public sentiment and freedom of speech. The tendency to block access to social media sites is especially prevalent in countries where state authorities own or control the internet infrastructure. This enables the authorities to quickly employ sporadic shutdowns to disrupt the expected movements of the democratic public.

Our live social media shutdown tracker is being continuously updated with new cases of disruptions based on people’s reports and global news stories.

Report it here

Key findings

1

African and Asian countries block access to social media the most, while Australia and Oceania had zero recorded cases of social media restrictions.

2

The practice of limiting social media access is usually the product of anti-democratic governments seeking to suppress citizens’ freedom.

3

Social media blocking in most countries is more of an on-and-off occurrence instead of a permanent decision.

4

There are 6 countries with ongoing bans on social media – all of them in Asia.

A third of world’s countries have restricted social media access since 2015

In 1 out of 3 countries systematic social media restrictions have been reported since 2015. Most of the outages have been related to political or societal events such as elections, referendums and protests.

Russia

Internet disrupted in Russia amid anti-Kremlin protests on January 23, 2021.

Iran

Iran blocked Telegram, used by half of the country's 81 million people, after mass anti-government protests in 2018.

India

India restored 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir in 2021, February – 18 months after imposing a wide communications blackout.

Burundi

Burundi blocked social media access during presidential elections in 2020.

Zimbabwe

In 2019, Zimbabwe's government blocked Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for seven days, amid deadly protests that killed at least 12 people.

Nigeria

Nigeria's government proposed a "frivolous petitions" bill to regulate social media. The punishment for social media posts criticizing the said law would be jail time and a $10,000 fine.

Cuba

On November 30, 2020, social media was disrupted for three days amid protests in Havana by a group calling for artistic freedom.

69 out of 193 countries

have blocked or heavily restricted access to social media in the past six years

The most recent cases of
social media blocking

South Sudan

August 30, 2021

Internet disrupted in South Sudan amid anti-government planned protests organised by the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA), which is calling for the leadership to resign.

Source

Zambia

August 12, 2021

Social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and messaging apps Messenger and WhatsApp have been restricted on multiple internet providers in Zambia amid presidential and parliamentary elections.

Source

Cuba

July 12, 2021

Partial restrictions have been placed on social media and messaging platforms following widespread protests against socialist government’s policies and rising prices.

Source

Nigeria

June 5, 2021

Nigeria banned Twitter after the social media site removed a post by President Muhammadu Buhari threatening secessionists.

Source

Bangladesh

March 26, 2021

Facebook and Messenger restricted in Bangladesh amid Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Source

Republic of the Congo

March 21, 2021

Republic of the Congo shutdown the internet on the day of presidential elections, Sunday 21 March 2021.

Source

Senegal

March 5, 2021

The arrest of the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in Senegal has led to demonstrations in Dakar. Restrictions of online services have been reported after the clashes between police and the protesters spurred.

Source

Chad

February 28, 2021

Following a raid at the property of Yaya Dillo, a representative of Chad's opposition, access to the internet form within the country was being hindered.

Source

Myanmar

February 1, 2021

As the Myanmar military took power over the weekend following their accusations of election fraud, internet disruption affected large parts of the country on February 1, 2021.

Source

Russia

January 23, 2021

On 2021, January 23. Internet disrupted in Russia amid anti-Kremlin protests.

Source

Uganda

January 12, 2021

On January 12, 2021, Uganda orders social media blocking ahead of election.

Source

Cuba

November 30, 2020

Social media disrupted on November 30, 2020 amid protests in Havana by a group calling for artistic rights.

Source

Tanzania

October 27, 2020

On the eve of general elections, October 27, 2020, Tanzania saw disruption to social media and online communication platforms.

Source

Azerbaijan

September 27, 2020

Following clashes with Armenia on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan authorities restricted access to many popular social media and communication platforms.

Source

Algeria

September 13, 2020

On September 13, 2020, Algerian authorities restricted social media access and cut internet connection nation-wide to prevent exam papers from leaking and discourage cheating among students.

Source

Deep dive into regions

The social media censorship tracker analyzes the global situation by looking at five regions and highlighting the most prominent cases of interruptions. Bellow we deep dive into the regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania.

Africa

31 countries blocked social media in the past

Chad

has cut access to social media platforms for 472 days between 2018-2019

Uganda

On January 12, 2021, Uganda ordered social media blocking ahead of the violent election.

Tanzania

On the eve of the general elections, October 27, 2020, Tanzania’s government disrupted social media and online communication platforms.

Algeria

has repeatedly blocked social media during school exams

Togo

blocked social media on election day in February 2020

Zimbabwe

social media was unavailable for a week in January 2019 following violent protests

Africa: a volatile environment
for social media

Cutting off access to social media is a common practice in African countries, especially during elections, protests, demonstrations, or exams.

31 out of 54 countries in Africa have blocked access to social media
platforms since 2015.

African countries are the least tolerant of social media

At least 17 countries

Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Togo, Tanzania, Benin, DRC, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Zambia have restricted access to social media in the past due to elections.

At least 8 countries

Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, DRC, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan, Zimbabwe have restricted access to social media in the past due to protests and demonstrations.

Nigeria’s notorious attempts at social media regulations

2020

People fear that the government will resurrect the bill since they’ve been vocal about social media regulations again. The authorities justify such attempts by claiming they want to manage fake news and hate speech. Still, the public sees questionable social media laws as a means to stifle online expression.

2015

Nigeria’s government proposed a “frivolous petitions” bill to regulate social media. The punishment for social media posts criticizing the said law would be jail time and a $10,000 fine. However, following widespread public criticism, the bill was withdrawn.

Asia

23 countries blocked social media in the
past and 6 are currently blocking social media

China

is currently blocking all foreign social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Vietnam

blocked Facebook during U.S. President Obama's visit to the country in 2016

Indonesia

on 22 May 2019, Indonesian government blocked Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for three days after riots in Jakarta

Asia: the strictest
social media shutdowns

From total Western social media shutdown to blocking Youtube because of leaked sexual content portraying politicians, more than half of all Asian countries have been limiting access to social media.

29 out of 46 countries in Asia have been cracking
down on social media usage since 2015

Noteworthy cases

China

Shows no mercy to foreign social media, but they have an entire ecosystem of Chinese-based social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, QQ, and Qzone.

Georgia

The authorities blocked YouTube twice in 2016 following the release of sex videos depicting Georgian politicians.

Azerbaijan

Has blocked social media platforms after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict flared up in September, 2020.

The Americas

5 countries blocked social media in the past

Venezuela

Blocked social media platforms at least 12 times in 2019

Ecuador

blocked Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp in 2019

Brazil

WhatsApp ban in 2016

Cuba

blocked Skype in 2017

The Americas: 13% of all countries
endure social media blocks

While North America doesn’t have recorded cases in social media restrictions, several countries in South America have dipped their toes in it.

5 countries out of 35 have practiced social media blocking in
the Americas since 2015

Venezuela vs social media in 2019

Social media disruptions and internet shutdowns in Venezuela began when Juan Guaido swore himself in as an interim president of Venezuela in 2019, following the 2018 elections that were widely deemed fraudulent.

In an attempt to stop as many Guaido speeches from airing, Nicolas Maduro’s government blocked access to social media anytime Guaido or his associates went on public appearances or livestreamed. Similar cases were recorded at least 12 times in 2019.

Europe

4 countries blocked social media in the past

Russia

blocked Telegram in 2018 for its refusal to share users' information with the government

Belarus

blocked Twitter & several social media platforms in August 2020 amid the presidential election

Ukraine

blocked Russian social media and search engines after annexation of Crimea in 2017

Montenegro

blocked WhatsApp and Viber on election day in October 2016

Europe: social media restrictions
more prominent in the east

While there are no recorded social media bans in Western Europe, the East of the continent tells a different story.

There have been cases reported in 4 out of 44 countries in South to Eastern Europe restricting access to social media services

Australia & Oceania:
heaven for social media

There are currently no recorded social media blocks in Australia and Oceania.

Summary

Almost one in three countries have blocked social media either permanently or sporadically since 2015.

While governments justify restricting social media due to security reasons, more often than not
it happens amidst protests and demonstrations.

A note on our methodology

The constraints of our methodology mean that there may be cases of social media blockings that have gone unnoticed or unreported, and numbers are likely to change if and when new information becomes available.

The data measures social media blockings from 2015 till the present day. Social media was conceptualized as social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube etc.) and communication apps, including VoIPs (i.e. Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber). Both local and national social media blockings have been taken into account in the study.

The data was collected through open-source information from Freedom House, Netblocks and reputable news reports.

Full research material.