Amidst public demonstrations over the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to jail, the government of Senegal blocked access to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as to instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger.
Analysis from the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) is that ISPs are blocking sites and services by timing out TLS handshakes. Transport Layer Security (TLS) is the protocol used to make secure connections (ex. “https”) to websites and services. TLS connections begin with a “handshake” between the two sites where they set up the encryption mechanism. ISPs are apparently interfering with this handshake process so that a connection cannot be established.
The Internet Society Senegal Chapter published a brief statement. An English translation is:
The Internet Society Senegal Chapter calls for an end to restrictions on social networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Telegram, Signal and YouTube observed in the context of the ongoing protests in several regions of Senegal in name of the defense and freedom of digital rights in Senegal. Internet access is a human right.
On 4 June 2023, the blocking escalated as the Senegal Ministry of Communication issued a statement requiring all telecommunications operators to temporarily suspend mobile Internet service.
On 4 June 2023, the Senegal Ministry of Communication issued a statement that mobile Internet access would be temporarily suspended. A contact in Senegal provided the statement:
A follow-up statement from the Ministry was issued on 6 June noting the impending end of the blocking.
The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) shows that access to at least Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube is being degraded.
OONI measurements also show that there is interference / blocking of Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and WhatsApp. Curiously, OONI data shows that Signal message was blocked but now appears to be working for the moment.
Google’s Transparency Report also shows the strong drop in traffic to YouTube coming from Senegal.
OONI measurements showed access to instant messaging and popular social media sites resuming across the 6 and 7 June.
- Keep people connected in Senegal – AccessNow
- Restrictions de l’internet et des réseaux sociaux, les OSC appellent le gouvernement sénégalais à abandonner ces mesures restrictives de la liberté d’internet – statement by four civil society organizations: Article19, Jonction, Appel, Raddho
- Internet Shutdown Advocacy in Senegal: How to Prepare, Prevent Resist – Optima
- Sénégal : le ministre de l’Intérieur annonce neuf (9) morts – PressAfrik
- Le Gouvernement du Sénégal restreint la connexion internet sur les réseaux sociaux Facebook, Twitter et WhatsApp – La Vie Senegalaise
- Ousmane Sonko sentenced: Why are tensions flaring in Senegal? – Aljazeera
- Clashes in Senegal leave at least 9 dead; government bans use of social media platforms – Associated Press