WhatsApp messaging service blocked in Chad

Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm that messaging app WhatsApp is blocked in Chad from Wednesday 22 July 2020. Real-time metrics show that the service remains unavailable as of Tuesday 18 August 2020.

Internet restrictions specifically target WhatsApp backend and frontend servers for subscribers of leading cellular networks Airtel and Tigo Tchad.

No explanation was initially provided by authorities, sparking speculation as to the basis of the restrictions. NetBlocks spoke with users who suspected a connection to a deadly altercation between an army colonel and a mechanic at a market in N’Djamena.

The restrictions came just as the International Monetary Fund announced additional credit to the Chadian government of $68.49 million in order to balance losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Days after the first publication of this report, government sources speaking on background appeared to support the narrative that the restrictions were related to the market incident. On 3 August 2020, the Minister of Communication confirmed to AFP that a “temporary measure” was taken to prevent the alleged “dissemination of messages of incitement to hatred and division,” but stopped short of providing specific details.

500 Internet performance metrics collected from an initial 10 observation points and a wider set of analytics data confirm on 22 July 2020 that WhatsApp frontend, backend and CDN servers were restricted in Chad. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter remained available. Findings are consistent with previous internet restrictions documented in Chad and there is no indication of a technical fault.

Affected users are able to regain access via VPN services which circumvent internet censorship by tunnelling network traffic to other countries.

Technical data confirm that WhatsApp is specifically targeted while other social media platforms remain available in Chad

Background: Chad’s 2018/2019 extended social media blackout

NetBlocks records show that Chad previously blocked social media for over a year, triggering a legal challenge and ultimately compelling Millicom to sell the Tigo service to Maroc Telecom.

Coverage

Previously:


Methodology

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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