Today marks a one year anniversary. Unfortunately, it’s not a positive one involving celebrations and gifts. It’s a mark on a social media ban. On March 28th, 2018, residents of Chad, a landlocked country in central Africa, had access to social media and messaging platforms for the last time. One year ago today, Chad officially implementing a ban on websites and apps like Facebook WhatsApp, Twitter, and Viber. At first, users thought it was a technical issue with the app providers or internet companies so they were surely disappointed when they found out full service would not be restored anytime soon.
Alain Kemba Didah, an executive board member of Internet Without Borders in Chad, explains that unfortunately, this has “become the new normal in this part of the world.” Other countries with dictatorial governments, such as China, have similar limits on online information to prevent government pushback and rebellion. According to the BBC’s Vincent Niebede in the capital, Ndjamena, many Chadians were using social media to organize anti-government protests and apparently the number of demonstrations has dropped.
But does the ban really hit the hardest where the government wants it to hurt? Protesters aren’t the only group seeing the effects. The ban hurts small business owners who utilize social media for low cost marketing and advertising. Without the platforms, they are severely limited in their options to connect and reach their customers.
Others effected are normal everyday citizens who are just trying to keep in touch with family and friends. By cutting off the use of these apps, reports say over 400,000 Chadian internet users are deprived of expressing their views online.
Activists are demanding access to be restored but it highly doubtful that it will happen anytime soon. According to BBC.com, a group of Chadian lawyers took telecommunication companies to court in August 2018 in an attempt to restore social media access but lost the case. The collective of lawyers have said they will now try to get the ban overturned by appealing to international authorities.