According to Surfshark, a cybersecurity company, social media censorship cases decreased by 35% worldwide in 2021.
Despite the evident decrease in cases, internet disruptions still affected almost a quarter of a billion people.
17 countries were recorded to have experienced social media or complete internet shutdowns.
The annual report shows that Africa is the most censorship-intensive region, responsible for nearly 53% of all cases recorded in 2021.
The censorships and shutdowns targeted platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Also read, Internet Shutdown By Some African Governments and its Toll on Tech Advancement
It is important to note that the vast majority of the social media shutdown cases were politically related.
Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark weighed in on these censorships saying; “2021 has been more stable than 2020 in terms of politics. However, it is quite evident that countries are not afraid to shut down social media in areas of political turmoil. This is more evident in Africa and Asia”
These bans crippled the economy in many countries and severed communication for millions of people during political distress and a global pandemic. According to Surfshark’s study, over 250 million people were affected by the blocking.
Although these bans affected the economy of different countries, African countries seem to have experienced this more as the continent has become the most censorship-intensive areas across the globe.
Here are some African countries that implemented bans on the internet/social media and the effect on their various economies;
Following the raid at Yaya Dillo’s property, a representative of Chad’s government position. The event took place on February 28th, 2021 about two months before the presidential election.
Ethiopia experienced social media shutdown, but blamed it on leaked 12-grade exam papers. However, most people were of the opinion that the internet was blocked when rebel forces allegedly seized strategic towns.
On the 5th June 2021, the Nigerian government resorted to suspending Twitter after tweets made by the Nigerian President got deleted by the social media platform.
The government claimed that the platform was suspended for “undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence,” instigating violent consequences by spreading fake news.
Also read, Lift on Twitter Ban: Changes to expect in the Digital Economy
However, after a parley between the platform and the Nigerian government, the ban was lifted on 13th January 2022.
The ban on Twitter had an adverse effect on the economy as many companies and SMEs couldn’t readily access their current and new customers.
Here’s a breakdown of the economic costs of internet shutdown in Africa:
Economic Costs of Social Media Blackouts in Africa
As it is, Africa has the highest teeming youth population of 226 million, making it the highest in the world.
This also means that it makes up for 60% of the unemployment figure on the continent. This implies that Africa needs to utilize all legitimate resources and avenues at growing to properly maximize and care for its rising youth population.
Social media shut down not only reduces such avenues but also shuts the youths away from opportunities.
For instance, it is estimated that Africa lost about US$ 237 million to internet blackouts between 2015 and 2017.
According to Net Blocks, so far, internet shutdowns have had a cumulative economic impact put at US$1 billion.
The shut down of Twitter in Nigeria saw it lose over 500 billion naira in just 200 days. Undoubtedly, that is a massive blow to the economy and the government has itself to blame as the country’s GDP continues to dwindle, any form of internet or social media shutdown should be the last thing the economy needs.
However, we are glad that the issue has been resolved and enterprises can now go back to doing business on the platform.
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