A new, unfortunate and very undemocratic trend has come to be associated with elections and Social Media in Africa: Some governments have taken to switching off their citizens’ access to the Internet or social media during general elections. Uganda is the very latest example, where the 72-hour ban of Social Media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, caused a huge public outcry - and led to Ugandans quickly becoming digital security experts, circumventing the blockages with proxies and VPN.
In other cases, the ruling elites have tried to ‘manage’ the impact of Social Media during an electoral period. And while not denying national access altogether, they still succeeded in minimizing the direct impact social networks had on the public perception of the electoral process (coincidentally, such incidents often relate to an incumbent government’s fear of popular protests at unfair electoral processes and results).
Africa has the largest growth of Internet distribution in the world but some governments still have a long way to go in respecting access to the Internet as a democratic right. This panel will discuss the nature and implications of the legal and sometimes illegal ways the Ugandan, Kenyan and Zimbabwean governments use to regulate social media and the strategies developed by Internet activists to react to them.