Zimbabwe’s internet blackout shows how powerless major telcos are against governments

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Internet access was restored in Zimbabwe late on Wednesday, but on Thursday WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter remained inaccessible.

More than 600 people were arrested this week as police armed with AK-47 rifles rounded up protestors, according to the Associated Press. At least six people were killed when the military was deployed to quell protests against high fuel prices on Monday. Amnesty International reported eight deaths, while the Association of Doctors for Human Rights reported treated 68 cases of gunshot wounds and more than 100 other cases of assaults. A tense calm returned on Thursday.

Zimbabweans were protesting a fuel hike that would see the price of petrol and diesel rise by 150%in a country that already had fuel shortages. Amid the violent crackdown on protesters, Zimbabweans were also cut off from the internet and social media in a blackout meant to stop demonstrators from organizing. It also means that the true extent of the crisis is difficult to ascertain as Zimbabwe remains cut off from the world. In 2017, WhatsApp alone accounted for nearly half of all internet traffic in Zimbabwe, and is instrumental in evading state control. Continue reading

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