Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm the loss of access to social media platforms via Togo’s leading operator Togo Telecom (Togocom, AS24691) as polls closed on election day, Saturday 22 February 2020.
Measurement from multiple locations show that the services became were reachable during the day but became unavailable by 17:00 at multiple locations via the state operator.
Corroboration of the targeted internet disruption comes as AP News reports that the opposition candidate’s home has been surrounded by security forces.
Confirmed: Real-time network data show social media services disrupted as polls close on election day in #Togo; outages corroborated on Togo Telecom impacting services including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp; developing incident #TogoElection 📉
📰 https://t.co/blWesfCqig pic.twitter.com/4DJ3UZcFRi
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 22, 2020
Data are consistent with users report emerging of difficulty reaching the Messenger app and Facebook social media platform in the same time window. The services remain blocked as of 8:40 p.m UTC, whil Twitter remains available and WhatsApp is partially usable due to the availability of backup servers.
Local media had raised concerns over the potential for a politically motivated internet disruption in recent days.
Election integrity in Togo has been in the spotlight following the dismissal of the National Democratic Institute election observation assistance mission which had been helping local monitors track conduct during the polls.
.@NDI is deeply troubled by the expulsion of NDI staff from #Togo & restrictions on election monitoring. Read statement from @ambDmitchell: https://t.co/VW6NFagGYl
— National Democratic Institute (@NDI) February 20, 2020
Investigations continue into the context and impact of the disruption.
Past disruptions and economic impact
Togo experienced outages exactly a month earlier, sparking fears of a disruption targeting the elections:
Update: Internet connectivity has returned to affected networks in #Togo; telecom operator #Togocom went offline on 22 January sparking fears of interference one month ahead of elections; incident duration ~22 hours 📈 pic.twitter.com/y7X2gaRdIC— NetBlocks (@netblocks) January 23, 2020
The economic impact of an internet outage in Togo outside of election time is estimated at $266,000 USD, as usage has tripled in recent years.
En 2017, le Togo avait coupé l’internet lors des manifestations contre le régime de @FEGnasingbé. Une journée de coupure d’internet coûterait 157 944 794 millions de FCFA á l’économie togolaise selon @netblocks. pic.twitter.com/NRPAHEB1YV— Paradigm Initiative (PIN) (@ParadigmHQ) January 23, 2020
Togo joins Benin, Mauritania and several other countries in the region that have faced challenges to the democratic process due to internet shutdowns and service disruptions in recent years.
Malawi recently annulled its presidential election results after a judgement on widespread irregularities, during which NetBlocks also identified that networks were partially cut as votes were counted.
Reports: Election-related internet shutdowns in Africa
This report follows the NetBlocks 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 are 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.
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