Jordan must keep people online amid elections and rising COVID-19 cases

As Jordan prepares for general elections on 10 November 2020, we urge the government and service providers operating in the country to keep the internet on.

The government of Jordan confirmed earlier this month that parliamentary elections will take place as planned despite the emergence of a second wave of the coronavirus, and amid public calls to boycott the elections in fear of the new soaring numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in Jordan.

Jordan is known for throttling the internet, particularly around national school exams and political unrest and protests. Access Now has been closely monitoring the state of the internet in Jordan during the last four years. The Jordanian government most recently restricted Facebook Live during mass protests of the teachers’ union in July-August 2020. The government responded with a violent crackdown, and a court gag order was issued on 9 August banning media coverage of the teachers’ protests.

Previously, Jordan throttled social media platforms during protests back in 2019 and also attempted to throttle Facebook Live for over 21 days. Similar disruptions to Facebook Live occurred during protests at the end of 2018 as well.

Although it is not clear how Jordan exactly throttles the internet, there is evidence that one of Jordan’s large telecommunications companies, Zain, has been using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology provided by Sandvine to block websites in the country. Sandvine has supplied its tools to governments around the world who use them to censor and disrupt networks, including recent shutdowns in Belarus and blocking of hundreds of websites in Egypt.

Free and open access to the internet is crucial during national elections when citizens need to have unfiltered access to information, hold public discussions and follow the elections process. This is even more true in the context of a pandemic and social distancing, and as the government plans a total lockdown for four days directly after the election.

If you’re in Jordan, use this form (also available in Arabic) to share your shutdown story. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are listening.