NetBlocks metrics confirm the restriction of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram and other social media platforms in Senegal as of 1 June 2023. From 4 June 2023, mobile data was also suspended, sending many users fully offline in a daily curfew-style pattern for three days. The measures come amid widespread protests over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Service was restored as of 7 June 2023. As of Monday 31 July, mobile data has again been restricted following the arrest of Sonko.
1 June: Restriction of social media in Senegal
⚠️ Confirmed: Metrics show the restriction of social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube in #Senegal; the incident comes amid protests over the sentencing of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 1, 2023
Real-time network data show the restrictions in effect on Senegal’s leading mobile provider Orange (Sonatel) with restrictions subsequently also observed on Free (Tigo). The study is taken from a sample size of 4000 measurements from 120 vantage points across Senegal. Unrelated platforms have remained available without restriction. This class of disruption can be worked around using VPN services, which are able to circumvent government internet censorship measures.
4 June: Restriction of mobile data in Senegal
On 4 June 2023, authorities imposed a mobile internet shutdown in some areas, further limiting access to communications. The measure is implemented to prevent the “dissemination of hateful and subversive messages in the context of public order disturbances” per authorities, and has adopted a curfew-style daily cycle of disruptions. Such measures leave users fully offline and cannot be readily circumvented by use of a VPN.
⚠️ Confirmed: Traffic data show mobile internet access has been suspended in #Senegal, sending users offline. The measure follows the restriction of social media and comes amid protests over the sentencing of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko 📵
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 4, 2023
⚠️ Update: Traffic data show that #Senegal has entered its third day of curfew-style mobile internet shutdowns; the measure is imposed from 1 pm to 2 am as authorities seek to quell protests over the sentencing of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko ⏱️📉
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) June 6, 2023
31 July: Restriction of mobile data in Senegal after arrest of Sonko
On 31 July 2023, authorities again restricted mobile internet access in Senegal. The incident comes after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on Friday. From of 1 August, cellular data has again been cut, as Senegal adopts an apparent curfew-style pattern of internet shutdowns that have continued daily, with service typically disabled between around 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. local time.
⚠️ Confirmed: Traffic data show mobile internet access has been suspended in #Senegal. The shutdown follows the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and is the latest in a series of mass-censorship measures imposed by the government 📵
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) July 31, 2023
The mobile data curfew has continued for a 5th day as of Friday 4 August 2023:
⚠️ Update: Network connectivity analysis shows #Senegal is now in its 5th day of curfew-style mobile internet blackouts following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, severely limiting public freedom of expression and access to information 📵
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) August 4, 2023
2 August: Restriction of TikTok
On 2 August, authorities restricted access to social video platform TikTok due to the alleged “spread of hateful and subversive messages threatening the country.”
⚠️ Confirmed: Metrics show that social video service TikTok has been restricted in #Senegal. The measure follows curfew-style mobile internet shutdowns and comes amid protests over the sentencing of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) August 2, 2023
5 August: Detention of Sonko’s lawyer
Reports emerged of the detention of Ousmane Sonko’s French lawyer, Juan Branco, as Senegal’s mobile internet curfew entered its 6th day.
⚠️ Update: Analysis of connectivity in #Senegal shows that the country has entered a 6th day of curfew-style mobile internet shutdowns amid reports that opposition leader Ousmane Sonko's lawyer, French citizen Juan Branco, has now also been detained 📵
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) August 5, 2023
What’s happening in Senegal?
Ousmane Sonko, a prominent opposition figure in Senegal, has been sentenced to two years in jail on charges of “corrupting youth,” leading to widespread protests in Dakar and other major cities. The court acquitted Sonko of rape and death threat charges but found him guilty of immoral behavior towards individuals younger than 21. The sentence could potentially bar Sonko from running in the upcoming presidential election. Protests have broken out in response to the verdict, with Sonko’s supporters claiming the charges are politically motivated and part of a plot to stymie his political career
Senegal has a history of using social media restrictions to control protests. In 2021, NetBlocks found that authorities limited access to social media and messaging apps, in addition to measures targeting traditional media. However, the new censorship measures are the most severe observed in the country to date.
Senegal’s government has also faced a series of activist cyberattacks over the treatment of Sonko, which brought down several state websites and online platforms hosted on the government ADIE network earlier in the week.
NetBlocks recommends against the use of network disruptions and social media restrictions, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
- Crowds clash with riot police as Senegal’s Sonko sentenced to jail – Reuters
- Clashes in Senegal after opposition leader sentenced to two years – France24/AFP
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.
NetBlocks is an internet monitor working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives to deliver a fair and inclusive digital future for all.
[ press | contact ] Graphics and visualizations are provided for fair use in unaltered form reflecting the meaning and intent in which they were published, with clear credit and source attribution to NetBlocks. Intellectual property rights are protected including but not limited to key findings, facts and figures, trademarks, copyrights, and original reporting, are held by NetBlocks. Citation and source attribution are required at the point of use.