Internet and streaming services blocked in Kazakhstan on election day

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:

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:

Internet video live-streaming services have been blocked in Kazakhstan since early morning on election day

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:

 

Background

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.

Methodology

Internet performance and service reachability are determined via NetBlocks web probe measurements. Each measurement consists of latency round trip time, outage type and autonomous system identity aggregated in real-time to assess service availability and quality in a given country across service providers.

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the entire IP address space of a country in real time, show internet outages corresponding to internet cuts in the region. 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 access was significantly disrupted in Kazakhstan from 11:00 a.m. local time, at the time of reported arrests

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.

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