Internet Shutdowns

Local Impact

On Monday, 31 July 2023, the Senegal Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy issued a communique stating that mobile Internet services would be “temporarily suspended” during certain unspecified hours starting on July 31. All mobile providers were ordered to comply. This follows the arrest over the weekend of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko on new charges. Earlier in June, the government of Senegal shut down access to social media services amidst nationwide protests over the sentencing of Sonko. The government of Senegal expanded the blocking of services to include TikTok on Tuesday, 2 August 2023.

Over 55 civil society organizations issued a statement on 3 August 2023 calling on the government of Senegal to restore Internet access. The Internet Society’s Senegal Chapter was one of the signatories.

By Monday, 7 August 2023, data from Senegal indicated that mobile connectivity was restored, but users reported that TikTok continued to be blocked.

Articles summarizing the situation include:

Cause Documentation

The communique from the Senegal Ministry of Communication was widely distributed on social media. It indicates that this shutdown is to prevent the distribution of subversive messages on social media.

screenshot of a communique from the Senegal government ordering mobile Internet to be shut down during certain hours

On Tuesday, 2 August 2023, the ministry issued a second communique expanding the order to now also block TikTok:

Screenshot of a communique blocking TikTok

Data and Analysis

The shutdown is targeted at mobile networks and we believe may be targeted at specific websites and services. As a result, overall Internet connectivity for Senegal shows as being available. However, diving into details for specific mobile networks shows the shutdown.

Cloudflare Radar measurements for the Tigo (AS37649) and Sudatel-Senegal (AS37196) mobile networks show repeated periods of time when services are blocked:

Chart from Cloudflare Radar showing repeated drops in traffic for the Tigo mobile network
Chart from Cloudflare Radar showing repeated drops in traffic for the Sudatel mobile network

Google’s Transparency Report also shows a deviation from the usual amount of traffic coming to their search pages from within Senegal:

Screenshot of a Google Transparency Report chart that shows traffic is lower since 31 July coming from Senegal

The Internet Outage Detection and Analysis (IODA) dashboard is also showing a significant drop in Google traffic. However, it is showing no change in BGP activity, which suggests there is no impact on Internet connectivity but only Internet services.

Screenshot of a IODA Report chart that shows Google traffic is lower on 31 July coming from Senegal.

After mobile Internet connectivity was restored, we can look back and see the outage in Google’s Transparency Report:

A chart from Google's Transparency Report showing daily spikes in visits from Senegal and then the period of the outage with reduced levels of visits.

and in Cloudflare Radar’s information for one of the mobile networks:

A chart from Cloudflare Radar showing the drop in connectivity for Sudatel's mobile network from July 31 - August 6.