Regional internet disruptions in Nicaragua amid protests

The NetBlocks internet observatory has detected a series of regional internet outages and disruptions coinciding with widespread protests and violence in Nicaragua. The country has been swept with unrest amid hundreds of deaths as protesters face off with pro-government paramilitaries while variously demanding democratic reforms, better economic conditions, an end to corruption and the ouster of President Daniel Ortega.

NetBlocks IP reachability scans show evidence of regional disruption corresponding to a full internet outage in Jinotega, north of the capital Managua beginning 12:00 UTC Wednesday 18 July up until 16:00 UTC. The scans also indicate an ongoing impact to service in the region following the main period of outage. These incidents can be observed in a time-lapse IP reachability chart published within this report, and are consistent with the network signature of known internet shutdowns and power disruptions.

Reports from Nicaragua and NetBlocks measurements show a strong correlation between the timing of attacks on civilians and observed incidents of network disruptions and blackouts, suggesting that a regime of internet controls has been deployed to restrict the flow of information in and out of protest zones at critical moments.

“See, there are cuts in the supply of Internet in several sectors of Nicaragua, for example Jinotega, Matagalpa, León, Masaya among others. There are many people in districts of the country that are without internet.” – user report
“Jinotega without internet, listening to mortars, the sound of barricades being attacked, now a death.” – user report

In previous days, NetBlocks has also identified partial mobile telecommunications outages of smaller magnitude; the second chart shows network fluctuations on July 16, again coinciding with protests, in the regions of Nicaragua around Managua and particularly Juigalpa. The measurements correlate with user reports of cell service outages during the same period posted to social media services.

It is unclear whether additional regions or services are affected at present. The cause of the outages remains officially unattributed, with no notice of internet curfews or censorship known to have been issued by the authorities.

“Juigalpa is under attack. They do not allow the injured to receive medical treatment. No cell network, of course. No internet, of course. These have been suspended, now they are shooting to kill, started 20 minutes ago”- user report

We are collecting user stories to document network disruptions that violate the rights of free expression and free assembly. Please let us know if you have experienced outages during the protests in Nicaragua.


Methodology

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.


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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