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Social media censorship tracker

Surfshark analyzed 185 countries and their social media blocking practices from 2015 to present day.


UPDATED 6 April, 2021 to include the latest information on social media shutdowns.

Table of contents

Key findings:

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

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

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

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

 

The most recent cases of social media blocking

Bangladesh. 2021, March. Facebook and Messenger restricted in Bangladesh amid Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Republic of the Congo. On 2021, March 21st. Republic of the Congo shutdown the internet on election day.

Senegal. On 2021, March 5th. Social media and messaging apps disrupted amid political conflict.

Chad. On 2021, February 28th. Internet disrupted in Chad after incident at opposition candidate Yaya Dillo’s home.

Myanmar. 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.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Do you have information about other recent cases?

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

Six countries have ongoing social media and VoIP app bans

A closer look at each continent

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.

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.

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.

At least 16 countries

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

At least 7 countries

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

Nigeria’s notorious attempts at social media regulations

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.

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.

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.

Australia & Oceania: heaven for social media

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

The Americas: 11% of all countries endure social media blocks

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

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.

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 2020 November. 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.