NetBlocks metrics confirm the restriction of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram and other social media platforms in Senegal on 1 June 2023. As of 4 June 2023, mobile data has also been suspended, sending many users fully offline. The measures come amid widespread protests over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.
Real-time network data show the restrictions in effect on Senegal’s leading mobile provider Orange (Sonatel) with restrictions subsequently also observed on Free (Tigo). The study is taken from a sample size of 4000 measurements from 120 vantage points across Senegal. Unrelated platforms have remained available without restriction. This class of disruption can be worked around using VPN services, which are able to circumvent government internet censorship measures.
On 4 June 2023, authorities imposed a mobile internet shutdown in some areas, further limiting access to communications. The measure is implemented to prevent the “dissemination of hateful and subversive messages in the context of public order disturbances” per authorities. Such disruptions leave users fully offline and cannot be readily circumvented by use of a VPN.
Senegal has a history of using social media restrictions to control protests. In 2021, NetBlocks found that authorities limited access to social media and messaging apps, in addition to measures targeting traditional media. However, the new censorship measures are the most severe observed in the country to date.
Senegal’s government has also faced a series of activist cyberattacks over the treatment of Sonko, which brought down several state websites and online platforms hosted on the government ADIE network earlier in the week.
NetBlocks recommends against the use of network disruptions and social media restrictions, given their disproportionate impact to fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.