Data collected by the NetBlocks internet shutdown observatory and thousands of volunteers across Sudan are providing detailed technical evidence of an extensive internet censorship regime implemented to suppress public demonstrations across the country.
Confirmed: Ongoing disruption targeting #Sudan's internet infrastructure amid protests
➡️ Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp blocked
➡️ Evidence of violations of UN resolution A/HRC/32/L.20
➡️ Damage to economy ~$15,000,000
➡️ 300,000+ datapoint studyhttps://t.co/kthu8D5Dz0 pic.twitter.com/1sa8fLH2md
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) December 21, 2018
[Chart shows morning of 21 December 2018, with study due to conclude 22-12-2018]
Over 300,000 individual measurements from the survey collected as of 10AM UTC 21 December, covering all major population centres of Sudan, show varying attempts to block social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and messaging app WhatsApp which have been rolled out since Thursday.
Sudanese internet provider Zain-SDN was found to have the most extensive blocking scheme, covering all key social platforms, followed by MTN which has not blocked WhatsApp, and Sudatel and Kanartel which have also been affected.
Sudani/Sudatel is further understood to have experienced a network outage between 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM UTC for reasons that remain unclear.
Measuring the availability, latency and geospatial characteristics of mobile and fixed line networks from thousands of vantage points using web probes, the study shows that restrictions are being applied at ISP-level, with each provider deploying its own technical measures to selectively withhold internet access from Sudan’s citizens. The finding is significant because it demonstrates that the blocking is not centralized, but rather applied at the discretion of the commercial operators.
Observers have raised concerns that the restrictions challenge fundamental human rights of freedom of assembly in contravention of U.N. resolution A/HRC/32/L.20. Further, as the internet restrictions continue through the day they will have cost Sudan’s economy an estimated $15 million USD according to COST, a platform that assesses the economic impact to national GDP of internet disruptions using an economic model devised by the Brookings Institution.
Initial findings from the ongoing study show that the internet blocks could have lasting impact on Sudan’s development and knock back confidence at a time when citizens are already deeply concerned about their cost of living.
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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