Ethiopia internet shutdown reported the ‘world’s longest’

According to the report, by the end of 2022, people in Tigray, Ethiopia had endured two plus years of full communications blackout, and many remain disconnected.

Ethiopia’s active internet shutdown in the Tigray region totaling 787 days plus is the world’s longest, a report has revealed.

The report by Access Now, a New York-based advocacy group noted that 187 shutdowns took place globally in 2022, with India leading by 84 shutdowns overall.

The findings of the report stated that in 2022 globally, Twitter was shut down 13 times in 11 countries, Instagram 10 times in nine nations, Facebook 13 times in 12 states, WhatsApp 10 times in nine republics and TikTok four times in four countries.

Also, Google services were halted nine times in eight countries, Telegram eight times in six nations, Signal five times in four states; IMO, WeChat and Clubhouse two times in two countries.

According to the report, by the end of 2022, people in Tigray, Ethiopia had endured two plus years of full communications blackout, and many remain disconnected.

“Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been shut off from telecommunications services since the beginning of the civil war on November 4, 2020. But we have only started to see limited connectivity since December 2022, when Ethio Telecom began infrastructure repairs. As of February 2023, the majority of people in the region remain disconnected, and those who have regained some access are largely struggling with slow speeds and limited 2G services,” stated the report.

In addition, it revealed that “Aside from the immediate impact of cutting off the region’s six million people from the rest of the world, the ongoing communication blackout has resulted in multifaceted threats to Tigrayans’ fundamental rights. Since it is one of the longest uninterrupted internet shutdowns to have taken place during active conflict, it has also had a harrowing impact on people’s lives.”

#KeepItOn, a campaign initiated by more than 300 organizations from 105 countries against internet shutdowns in conjunction with Access Now noted, “2022 was also the year with the highest total number of shutdowns in the rest of the world to date.”

The report revealed that the main triggers for these shutdowns include protests, active conflicts, elections and exams (to prevent exam cheating).

The survey noted internet shutdowns, of any form, always violate fundamental human rights and cause incalculable and persistent damage to people’s lives.

Kenya was hailed for keeping its commitment to #KeepItOn during the August 2022 general election unlike other East African countries like Uganda, which blocked Facebook ahead of the January 2021 general elections and to date has not lifted it.

“Kenya’s government does not have a history of shutdowns, but it was on our elections watchlist due to increasing political tensions and the rampant spread of misinformation online. To prevent an election shutdown, Access Now and our coalition partners hosted training for journalists, human rights defenders, and election observers, and maintained steady pressure on the Kenyan government and telecom executives to #KeepItOn throughout the 2022 general election period.”

Tech companies have been urged to work closely with civil society to share details about how and when shutdowns impacting their services occur.

“Take the steps necessary to make your platforms and services resistant to shutdowns wherever possible. In particular, for social media platforms, make the appropriate investments in high quality, human-led content moderation, reducing incentives and excuses for internet shutdowns, particularly in moments of crisis.” noted the report.

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