Social media and messaging restricted, internet shut down for Uganda elections

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:

As polls closed and vote counting began, national internet connectivity fell further to just 12% of ordinary levels:

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:

Findings are drawn from a set of 400 NetBlocks Web Probe metrics.

Further reading:

With thanks to CIPESA, Nasawali Phame, Fahad Amir for contributions.


Methodology

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.

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