Week in Review: January 26, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

Government of Chad orders Internet shutdown on Thursday morning

The government of Chad ordered an Internet shutdown on Thursday morning, coming shortly before planned marches in protest of government austerity measures, reports The Journal du Cameroun. According to the Journal, “mobile phone operators sent messages from the government to their subscribers informing them of the ban” the day before. The shutdown affected all social media and SMS services.

In a press statement from Internet Without Borders, Abdelkerim Yacoub Koundougoumi, writes (translated from the French) "This is not the first time that the regime uses this method and every time it faces a popular challenge, it uses on one side the army to crack down on the street and Internet censorship to gag the people and the youth.”

Chad previously blocked Internet access for 48 hours during the 2016 presidential elections.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government orders Internet shutdown

On January 21, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) cut off Internet access and SMS services following demonstrations against president Joseph Kabila, reports Reuters. A telecommunications minister who spoke with Reuters cited national security as the motivation behind the restriction.

According to a report in Quartz, A 2002 telecommunications law grants the government power to control telecommunications in the interest of national security; as a result “Internet service providers, including Bharti Airtel and Orange Group, have often complied with government orders, fearing their licenses would be terminated if they refused to assent.”

In an Internet Without Borders press release on the shutdown, Executive Director Julie Owono writes that “it’s time for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to dissociate themselves from censorship in the DRC, by refusing to obey the Congolese government’s illegal demands, in accordance with the requirements laid down in the UN guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

As previously described in January 5’s Week In Review, the DRC has disrupted Internet access a number of times, notably in 2015 and 2016 following demonstrations against President Kabila’s extended term in office and a 48-hour blackout on December 31, 2017.

To see statistics on Internet penetration in the DRC, visit this Internet Monitor dashboard.

China’s #MeToo movement faces Internet censorship

A New York Times report describes a number of government Internet content controls in response to China’s #MeToo movement, including blocking of phrases such as “anti-sexual harassment” on social media and deleting online petitions.

In one illustrative example, the Times reports how “Xu Yalu, 28, a marketing specialist, recently took to social media to recount being groped on the street in Shanghai several times. She posted photos of the man but said the police refused to take action, telling her he was too old to be arrested. Soon she was inundated with misogynistic comments and her post was deleted by censors.”

A Global Voices article covered the #MeToo movement at Beihang University, where a professor was dismissed after multiple allegations of sexual assault. Former student Luo Qianqian’s published account of the professor’s sexual misconduct faced censorship online before other students came forward with similar accounts.