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Why Zimbabwe Blocks Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter

Zimbabwe has blocked Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp messaging apps in a bid to tackle violent protest in the South African country.

According to a BBC report a coalition of local human rights groups says at least 12 people have been killed. There are also reports of many more  being brutally  beaten and tortured by security forces this week.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum accused the authorities of cutting off the internet “to mask the massive human rights violations”.

The protests were sparked on Monday(14-1-19) by a sharp rise in the price of fuel. But what have been the source of all these recent unrest.

The have reports of looting and lawlessness in some part of the country.

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Fuel Price Hike

Zimbabwe Blocks Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter

Protesters arrested. Credit BBC

We will try to focus on the tech side of things, but many will like to know why the government decides to ban the social media platforms. The source of these issue is Fuel price hike.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the rise was aimed at tackling shortages caused by an increase in fuel use and “rampant” illegal trading.

Zimbabweans have suffered economic hardship from the days of Mugabe. With the fuel price increase is harder for the citizenry to afford a bus fare.

The southern African nation faces a severe shortage of US dollar cash. Currently the confidence in its bond notes, currency that can only be traded in Zimbabwe, is low.

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Why the Government Target Social Media

You may have noticed that recent years the social media have been using to great effect in championing a change desired by the masses. A case study is the “Arab Spring”.

In Zimbabwe most of those agitating and protesting the current economic melt down and fuel prices.  The  protesters have used Social media to mobilized and share information.

On Thursday, prominent activist Evan Mawarire, who called for a stay-at-home protest on social media. He was charged with subverting the government, a crime which carries up to 20 years in jail. He gained fame as a figurehead of the #ThisFlag protests against the former president, Robert Mugabe, in 2016.

As if that was not enough the government decided to temporary block access to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. You may wonder is that even possible?

Well, Yes and is easy China, North Korea, Brasil and many other country have blocked social media for various reasons.

The internet service you enjoy is given by an Internet Service Provider(ISP). It is very easy for the government to order ISPs to shut off access to specific services and websites or the entire internet.

Econet, a leading ISP in the country says : it was ordered to block access for its subscribers.

However some users can bypass the social media blockade by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN). What VPN does is that is hides your location and re-rout connection as if it from another country.

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