#KeepItOn 2022 Report: Weapons of control, shields of impunity - internet shutdowns in 2022

Internet shutdowns in Africa: fewer offenders in 2022, still causing harm

In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across 35 countries — the highest number ever recorded in a single year — at least 187 times. In Africa, seven countries imposed shutdowns nine times, a significant decrease from 2021 where 12 countries disrupted the internet 19 times. 

Just launched, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition’s new report, Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022, reveals and unpacks the global resurgence of internet shutdowns over the span of one catastrophic year for human rights, including in Africa. Read the full reportglobal snapshot, and the Africa deep dive.

“Governments wield internet shutdowns as weapons of control and shields of impunity,” said Felicia Anthono, #KeepItOn Campaign Manager at Access Now. “While 2022 saw the individual cases of governments implementing internet shutdowns in Africa drop, the continent is currently home for the longest ongoing internet shutdown in the world — Tigray, Ethiopia. As countries across the continent hold elections in 2023, this year will stand as a test where governments can make the decision to curb this oppressive form of digital control for good.”

While disruptions decreased across Africa, authorities continued to weaponize internet shutdowns against millions of people and communities. Key findings include:

  • The total: at least 187 shutdowns across 35 countries globally, and at least nine shutdowns in seven countries in Africa;
  • The biggest offenders: both Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone shutdown the internet twice, other countries in the region disrupted the internet once;
  • The triggers: authorities shutdown the internet to quash protests or key political events in Sierra Leone, Somaliland, and Zimbabwe, and during political upheaval and conflict in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia;
  • The entrenchment: the two-year long shutdown in Tigray languished on, and Uganda continued an an ongoing Facebook block that reached 719 days at end of 2022;
  • The decrease: the drop in shutdowns from 19 in 2021 to nine could be attributed to the low number of elections in the region — a recurring trigger — while some governments committing to not shutting down the internet is a testament to increasing awareness of the negative effects they cause; and
  • The positives: West Africa’s top court declared Nigeria’s Twitter ban unlawful, Kenya upheld its commitment to #KeepItOn during elections, and The Gambia ensured internet access throughout  elections when it previously had not, and the #KeepItOn coalition grew to over 300 members from 105 countries. 

In 2022, authorities shut down the internet across Africa in: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

“Governments across Africa cannot continue to deploy internet shutdowns at will,” said Bridget Andere, Africa Policy Analyst at Access Now. “From awareness raising and collective advocacy, to taking on governments in court, civil society will hold those in power accountable for their actions. We grow our resilience in the fight to #KeepItOn.”

Read the full reportglobal snapshot, and the Africa deep dive.