Twitter and Facebook, two of the biggest social media platforms were targeted by governments worldwide for their role in facilitating communication and mobilization, data presentation by Atlas VPN team reveals.
The data showed that protests and active conflicts were the primary triggers of the internet shutdowns.
Governments restricted access to Twitter 13 times in 2022. As of February 2022, Twitter has been inaccessible in China, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan due to government restrictions.
Last year, Facebook’s access was also limited by governments on 13 occasions. Besides the usual suspects who blocked Twitter, Uganda’s president banned Facebook in January 2021.
Governments enforced limitations on Instagram’s and WhatsApp’s accessibility, blocking each social media app 10 times. VPN usage in Russia skyrocketed by 10,000% following the Instagram ban in March.
Google Services were blocked 9 times by governments last year. Furthermore, governments imposed restrictions on Telegram 8 times. Signal experienced governmental restrictions on access 5 times, while TikTok faced 4 instances of such limitations.
Cybersecurity writer at Atlas VPN, Vilius Kardelis, shares his thoughts on government censorship on the internet: “Government internet shutdowns and social media blocks during protests or conflicts are short-term solutions that stifle freedom of expression and access to information. Governments should explore proportionate measures that respect human rights and uphold communication principles.”
Internet shutdown triggers
Internet shutdowns have become a control tool for some governments by limiting access to information and communication during critical moments.
The primary leading cause for internet shutdowns was protests, leading to 62 cutoffs from the web. After demonstrations in Jordan, India, Iran, and other countries, their governments restricted internet access to prevent the further spread of information.
Active conflicts were the reason for 33 internet shutdowns in 2022. Russia’s war on Ukraine caused a few of these cutoffs, and so did the conflict in Yemen.
Governments shut down the internet 8 times to prevent cheating in exams. In addition, 5 cutoffs from the internet were tied to elections.