Sudan blocks internet four times in three years
A significant disruption to internet service in Sudan was recorded on Monday, affecting cellular and some fixed-line connectivity on multiple providers.
According to cybersecurity company Surfshark, Sudan faces significant internet disruption for the first time in two years since July 2019, when the mobile internet shutdown left the country off line for 36 days.
This time, internet disruption happened after military forces arrested at least four cabinet ministers and a ruling council member.
"This morning, national connectivity in Sudan reached only 34% of ordinary levels. This is an alarming disruption that significantly limits free speech as it directly impacts the free flow of information online and news coverage of recent incidents with government officials," said Gabriele Racaityte-Racai, Communications manager at Surfshark.
Targeted internet disruptions, including shutdowns and social media restrictions, have gone together with political turmoil in Sudan since 2018 when protests transitioned to civilian rule.
The recent incident is still ongoing and might last for a long period of time as this is usual in the country. During the country's most prolonged recorded network disruption, Sudan restricted social media for 68 days to stop the protests and shut down Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
A more extensive mobile internet shutdown restricting more than just social media left Sudan offline for 36 days in July 2019.
Since 2015, 31 out of 54 countries (57%) in Africa, including Sudan, have blocked access to social media platforms. The research shows that 54% of affected countries in the region experienced blockings related to elections and 25.8% to political protests.
ITWeb Africa published a report in early January 2020 which cited research, the Global Cost of Internet Shutdowns in 2019 report, published by Internet research firm Top10VPN, which stated that globally, more than 18 000 hours of Internet shutdowns around the world cost more than US$8-billion in the same year.
In Africa, Algeria, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe were among the worst offenders in terms of the amount of time the internet was disrupted.
Commenting on the report, digital advocacy group, Access Now, said: “An Internet shutdown is an intentional disruption of Internet or electronic communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unusable for a specific population or within a location, often to exert control over the flow of information.”
A report by the Africa Digital Rights Network (ADRN) - Digital Rights in Closing Civic Space: Lesson from 10 African Countries - found that countries like Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have used several measures to suppress people’s ability to organise, voice opinions and participate in governance online over the past decade.
The report found over 100 examples of technology tactics and techniques used to control or censor the internet.
According to the report, the most common methods used by governments included digital surveillance, internet shutdown, disinformation, introduction of laws reducing digital rights and arrests for online speech.