Skip to main content

Gambia's Election Shutdown

Access Now recently reported that there have been over 50 Internet shutdowns around the world in 2016, compared to 15 known shutdowns the previous year. Many of these shutdowns have taken place in Africa - as seen in a recent Psiphon blog piece documenting a shutdown and social media blocking event in Gabon.

Last week, another shutdown happened in Gambia. Just after 9pm local time on November 30th 2016, we received a message from our friend Moses Karanja, a researcher at the research fellow at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) in Kenya. Moses asked if we were able to verify reports he had seen on social media, saying that the Internet was unavailable in Gambia.

From our network monitoring, we could see that there had been a total drop-off in Psiphon traffic at just after 8pm local time. To verify this, we contacted Akamai’s State of the Internet team, to see if they had also seen a drop in traffic. Within a few minutes, they confirmed it for us, and tweeted to let the world know.
We followed this up with our own tweet, showing a similar effect on our network.

This outage occurred on the eve of the country’s presidential election on December 1st. The incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, had warned against people taking part in any protests that would follow an election he expected to win.

Following Jammeh's defeat in the election to Adama Barrow, the candidate chosen to represent seven opposition parties, Internet and telecommunication services began to be restored. The outage was expected to last into Saturday December 3rd, but instead was reversed by 11.30 on Friday December 2nd.

The reporting of the shutdown and confirmation at the network level came about due to close collaboration between the research community and the private sector, and helped to highlight the growing number of Internet shutdowns that are occurring across the world. For more information, read this piece from Moses Karanja, as he continues to track and document Internet shutdowns in Africa.

Popular posts from this blog

Social Media and Internet Ban in Turkey

Following the detainment of 12 pro-Kurdish lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the early hours of November 4 th , Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp and Skype were blocked in Turkey . There were reports that Turk Telekom internet provider completely disabled access to the internet or throttled the connection to the point that it was impossible to connect. Despite lack of official decision about the restrictions, and BTK’s explanation that there was a technical problem throughout Turkey, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made a statement later in the day and said “For security reasons, these kinds of measures can be taken time to time. These are temporary measures. Everything goes back to normal after the danger is eliminated.” Social media and internet bans ended the following evening in most of the country, but there were still some short-term connection problems during the weekend in some regions, and it was reported that some Turk Telekom users

Psiphon Usage Surges as Brazil Blocks WhatsApp

At 9PM ET on December 16th WhatsApp was blocked in Brazil . The ban came after a judge ordered that the messenger app be blocked for 48 hours when the company refused to hand over private user information related to a criminal case. For months, Brazilian telecommunications companies have been attempting to shut down WhatsApp because it provides free messaging and voice services. WhatsApp is the most popular messenger service in Brazil and telecoms blame it for luring millions away from paid cell phone use. Internet users in Brazil reacted strongly to the ban, criticizing the decision to block WhatsApp widely on social media. Millions turned to alternate messenger services and shared circumvention techniques over social media. Psiphon was praised by people in Brazil for being free, open source, and able to keep them connected throughout the blocking event. Psiphon’s surge capacity was able to cope with the increased demand, with peak data use of more than 8x that of a normal day. Psip

Amid major network disruptions, 1.76M Psiphon users in Belarus

The Psiphon network supported a peak 1.76 million daily active users during significant network interference that started August 9th, a figure that represents nearly 1 in every 3 internet users. A large-scale disruption to international internet access was observed in Belarus, beginning during the contested presidential election on August 9th. Widespread filtering was reported across all Belarusian networks, affecting popular messaging apps including Telegram, Viber, and WhatsApp; social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube; major app markets including Google Play and the App Store; email providers Gmail,, and Yandex; maps, banking, online media, and many other services. Rolling blackouts of the mobile networks also occurred nightly between 6PM and 6AM. The majority of VPNs were reportedly blocked as a result of generalized SSL/TLS filtering. Tor direct connections were disrupted by the increased network change, while Tor bridge users reached a peak 8,0