WhatsApp shutdown in Zimbabwe
This week Zimbabwe was rocked by national protests against government corruption, economic collapse and the long-tenure of Mugabe, now 92. The response of the government was to shut down the messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. It is also alleged that they limited the access to the Internet for most of the day.
The protests were largely organised and mobilized over WhatsApp and social media. Hashtags such as #ShutDownZim, #ZimbabweShutdown and #ZimShutdown dominated social media websites like Twitter in efforts to bring the country to a standstill in order to address the protester’s demands. Early in the morning then it was noticed that WhatsApp had stopped working for many users. Later it became apparent that only the users of certain Zimbabwean cellular networks no longer had access to the messaging service. The cellular networks did not appear to know the exact reason for the prohibited access. Econet, the largest Internet provider in Zimbabwe, merely acknowledging that it was not working.
(Image Source: Statista)
“All sim cards in Zimbabwe are registered in the name of the user. Perpetrators can easily be identified” warned the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. A letter issued by the regulating body expressed disdain at the use of social media to organize the protests and threatened the arrest of anyone. The Minister of Higher Education of the country tweeted in response to provoking tweets of protestors that “If there’s a stay away as you claim then stay away from WhatsApp…”
That the Zimbabwean government limited communication and allegedly limited access to the Internet is especially chilling considering the fact that only days ago the United Nations declared the right of access to the Internet one that should be promoted and protected, something that was clearly not done here.
For anyone unfamiliar with the social media app can review the attached infographic discovered via shoponless outlining 47 interesting facts and stats about WhatsApp.
By Jason de Klerk