Multiple internet providers in Kazakhstan blocked access to online streaming services as well as totally cutting the internet access for most users in the late morning on Sunday 9 May 2019, the day of presidential elections, according to NetBlocks internet observatory network measurements.
The internet cut, having nationwide impact for close to an hour, came at 5:00 a.m. (11:00 a.m. ALMT) coinciding with the time of reported detentions of journalists and political activists at demonstrations in Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Shymkent:
Urgent: #Kazakhstan has blocked internet access on election day, as well as restricting streaming services since early morning; data show timings are coordinated with political arrests of journalists and critics #KazElection2019 #KeepItOn 📉https://t.co/2boL1djkqr pic.twitter.com/JtkjnRStzi
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 9, 2019
Meanwhile, Twitter’s Periscope live streaming service has been blocked nationwide since 1.00 a.m. UTC and remains totally blocked, preventing both the broadcast and reception of video live streams. The information blackouts present an immediate challenge to Kazakhstan’s democratic process:
The restrictions come into place as Kazakhstan votes for a successor to president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Network data show that restrictions have been deployed since early hours this morning. The blocks affect all major internet providers and are consistent with methods used to block online content in the country.
Data show that VPN services are also blocked, preventing the use of many popular circumvention tools. The loss of connectivity limits access to independent sources of news and information about candidates at a critical moment for Kazakhstan’s democracy.
Update: 11 June 2019: WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have been restricted across Kazakhstan from 9:00 a.m. UTC (3:00 p.m. local time) two days following outages during Sunday’s elections:
Confirmed: WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram restricted across #Kazakhstan since 9:00 a.m. UTC (3:00 p.m. local time) two days following presidential elections; incident ongoing #KeepItOn 📉https://t.co/2boL1djkqr pic.twitter.com/rSlluflk6y
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 11, 2019
Previous NetBlocks internet observatory measurements indicated Internet providers in Kazakhstan had cut social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and YouTube by around 7:00 a.m. UTC (1:00 p.m ALMT) on Victory Day.
Kazakhstan has been subject to frequent intermittent social media blocking measures in recent months as authorities seek to restrict access to live broadcasts by political activists. However, NetBlocks data show that the newly identified internet shutdowns are distinct from those blocks, in this instance appearing to specifically target coverage of election proceedings through Sunday.
This report follows the Election Pathfinder Rapid Response methodology which defines a set of core principles, workflows and benchmarks for network measurement and evaluation during elections and referenda.
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.
Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe privacy-preserving analytics. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system number aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and latency in a given country. Network providers and locations enumerated as vantage point pairs. The root cause of a service outage may be additionally corroborated by means of traffic analysis and manual testing as detailed in the report.
NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.