In 2019, the government of Benin joined the growing list of governments weaponizing internet shutdowns during elections. In Chad, authorities choked access to social platforms — including WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube — for a startling 472 days between 2018 and 2019.
Both nations have a history of disrupting internet access during important national events. Both nations are heading to the polls for presidential elections on April 11. Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on authorities to ensure the internet is open and accessible during the Benin and Chad elections.
“The internet is a tool for democracy, not a threat to it,” said Felicia Anthonio, Campaigner and #KeepItOn Lead at Access Now. “The #KeepItOn coalition is appealing to authorities in Benin and Chad to not repeat past mistakes, and safeguard internet access throughout the presidential elections.”
Upholding access to the internet — including social media media platforms — will help foster election transparency, and help promote citizen participation. The coalition calls on the governments of Benin and Chad to:
- Publicly assure the people of Benin and Chad that the internet, including social media and other digital communication platforms, will remain open, accessible, inclusive and secure throughout the elections and thereafter;
- Order internet service providers operating in the countries to provide everyone with high-quality, secure, and unrestricted internet access throughout the election period and thereafter; and
- Order internet service providers operating in the countries to inform internet users of any potential disruptions and to take all reasonable steps to fix any identified disruptions likely to impact the quality of service they receive.
In 2019, authorities in Benin began by blocking social media platforms — including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and Instagram — on parliamentary election day. They swiftly moved onto blocking Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), then, before the day was through, cut access to the internet entirely. In July 2020, Chad blocked social media, slowed down the internet, and censored citizen journalists.
See which elections are on the #KeepItOn coalition’s radar in 2021.