Following attempts to overthrow the government in Sudan that has been ruling the country for 30 years now, protestors were blocked access to social media, shortly before the country experienced a complete power blackout. The events happened in early-April, and although the ban was later uplifted, that was not the first time Sudanese internet users were faced with such an issue.
Social Media Disruption and Power Shutdown during Sudan Protests
On April 7, social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Telegram were blocked in Sudan, during intense demonstrations happening in the country. Shortly after, the ban was lifted making this the second time the government blocked social media amidst the political crisis.
According to data from NetBlocks, Sudanese Telecom Operators SDN, MTN, Sudatel, and Kanartel, blocked the access to many popular social media platforms at the time when the protestors approached the army headquarters in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.
Several hours after the blocks, the country experienced a total power outage, something that remained unaddressed or explained by officials. The Sudanese Ministry of electricity and water did not come out with a statement explaining the events.
As NetBlocks reported, the power blackout disrupted almost half of the country’s telecom infrastructure. Many social media platforms were subjected to content filtering, in the attempts of the government to control and censor online content in the country during the demonstrations and the previous incidents that happened in Sudan.
Protestors and Sudanese internet users were outraged by the blackouts. They went on Twitter to spread the word about VPNs that can be the best alternative in these types of situations.
As a matter of fact, this was not the first time the government blocked internet users and demonstrators from accessing social media platforms.
This was the second complete shutdown since the start of the protests. The first one lasted a whopping 68 days, starting from December 21, and it eventually ended in February. Popular social media networks were then blocked, as they were being used by the demonstrators during the protests.
The anti-government protests started in December 2018, as an attempt to force the current president Omar al-Bashir to resign, after 30 years of ruling the country. Also, the violent demonstrations that even led to many casualties across the country, were infused by the poor economic and political situation in the country.
The Remedy for Social Media Blocks
The demonstrations continued in the following days after the second social media blackout. In mid-April, Sundanese president al-Bashir was forcefully removed from his position while Vice-President Ahmed Ibn Auf took over the government, and a two-year military council was established.
A day later, Ibn Auf announced his resignation, as protestors were demanding a transition to civilian rule instead.
The protest has been going on for months now, and it’s not unusual for a government to block access to social media in the time of a crisis. Many African countries have been in the same position, and this practice by governments can be seen around the world.
As several social media users explained online, a virtual private network (VPN) can help internet users in a time of a blackout. According to Sudanese VPN users, most service providers work in the country, calling Hotspot Shield, Psiphon, and Betternet as some of the suggestions that can solve the problem.
Also, for now, proxies are the second alternative as most of them work properly and will provide access to social media platforms in case they are blocked.
For as long as the political crisis in Sudan continues at the same pace, internet users are best off with either a VPN or a proxy. Ultimately, these tools can help users to stay online, they limit government surveillance in the country, and also help bypass certain social media blocks.