African governments have used internet shutdowns, social media bans, and taxes to silence dissent

There are some countries that are conspicuously missing from the list, but it is likely because African governments have more effective tools at their disposal when they want to silence dissent: internet shutdowns, social media bans, and taxes.

Social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook are regularly in the government spotlight for material that’s published on them. Some African governments shut down the platforms especially during elections and protests. More than half of African countries have blocked access to social media platforms since 2015, according to a study by Surfshark, a privacy protection company.

In one of the most recent cases, Nigeria suspended Twitter indefinitely last month after the social media site deleted a tweet by president Muhammadu Buhari appearing to threaten violence against a secessionist group.

Mobile social media penetration in sub-saharan Africa is at 11% and in most African countries, Twitter ranks sixth in usage after Whatsapp, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, according to datareportal.

In total, Twitter received 14,561 information requests from governments around the world in the second half of last year and took action on more than 3 million accounts during this period.

Globally, Twitter saw a 15% increase in information requests compared to the first half of 2020, with the top requesting countries being India, the US, Japan, and France.

The social media site has now received government information requests from 11 African countries and 96 globally since 2012.

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