Network data from the NetBlocks Internet Observatory confirm Uganda is in the midst of an internet blackout continuing as election results are announced, following widespread restrictions to social media and online communication platforms on major internet providers from Tuesday 12 January 2021. Findings reveal the extent of restrictions issued by order of the Uganda Communications Commission ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on the 14th.
Update: Internet service has been shut down by the government as of 7 p.m. Wednesday 13 January 2021, leaving citizens in an information vacuum that has continued through election day on the 14th:
⚠️ Confirmed: #Uganda is now in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout on the eve of elections; real-time network data show national connectivity falling to 33% of ordinary levels as per government order in effect from 7 pm 📉 #UgandaDecides2021
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) January 13, 2021
As polls closed and vote counting began, national internet connectivity fell further to just 12% of ordinary levels:
Update: It's now 6 pm in #Uganda where vote counting is under way amidst a national information blackout. Real-time network data show internet connectivity at just 12% of ordinary levels, with poll results expected in 48 hours 📵📉 #UgandaDecides2021
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) January 14, 2021
Update: It's now Saturday in #Uganda where citizens remain disconnected following contested elections held amid a near-total internet blackout. Real-time network data show national connectivity at just 13% of ordinary levels 📵📉 #UgandaDecides2021
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) January 15, 2021
Update: Citizens remain offline without access to independent sources of information as #Uganda announces election results; real-time network data show national internet connectivity hovering at just 13% of ordinary levels 📵📉 #UgandaDecides2021
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) January 16, 2021
Previously, from Tuesday to Wednesday evening metrics showed that Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, Viber, Google Play Store, some Telegram servers and link shortening services were among a lengthy list of pre-selected online platforms unavailable via Uganda’s main cell network operators:
Confirmed: Social media and messaging restricted in #Uganda as authorities impose internet gag order for elections; data show Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, Viber and some Google and Telegram servers impacted #UgandaDecides2021
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) January 12, 2021
Findings are drawn from a set of 400 NetBlocks Web Probe metrics.
- Ugandans report internet problems on eve of presidential election – Reuters
- Uganda bans social media ahead of presidential election – Reuters
- Internet ‘blackout’ in Uganda on eve of tense election – Associated Press
- ‘Uganda election feels like a war’: human rights lawyer – DW
- Uganda elections 2021: Social media blocked ahead of poll – BBC
- Arrested, tear-gassed but still singing: Pop star-turned-politician Bobi Wine takes on Uganda’s ‘strongman’ – NBC
- Uganda: Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and more blocked before elections – Heise (DE)
- Uganda Election Held Amid Violence, Killings, and Censorship – CRD
With thanks to CIPESA, Nasawali Phame, Fahad Amir for contributions.
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.
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.