A Fourth Estate® Service

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Tanzanian Internet, SMS Services Blocked Ahead of Elections

Just a few hours before election day, internet users in Tanzania and on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar reported limited access to internet services and social media platforms.

Just a few hours before election day, internet users in Tanzania and on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar reported limited access to internet services and social media platforms.

Netblocks confirmed that access to Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Google services on Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo, Halotel, and Zantel were throttled.

Twitter Public Policy tweeted that they have observed the incident and condemned the censorship.

“Ahead of tomorrow’s election in #Tanzania, we’re seeing some blocking and throttling of Twitter. #TanzaniaDecides2020. Internet shutdowns are hugely harmful, and violate basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet #KeepItOn,” said the Twitter Public Policy account. 

Tanzanians on Twitter also complained that they cannot access social networks like WhatsApp and using certain keywords are restricted on SMS.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) also released an order suspend bulk SMS and bulk voice calls for two to allegedly limit the reach and visibility of opposition candidates. 

As a result of the internet blocks,  VPN search requests on Google in Tanzania have risen as citizens look for ways to get their connection back. 

Aside from the internet throttling,  security forces have also arrested 42 opposition activists in Zanzibar.

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