According to reports by digital rights organization Access Now and internet monitor NetBlocks, WhatsApp, alongside other major social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, has been blocked in Zambia due to the ongoing general elections being held in the country. The block is presumed to be a way to ensure that voters are not given the opportunity to spread unverified election rumors during very much contentious elections.
The local Zambian news organization Lusaka Times also reported that officials of the Ministry of Information and Broadcast Services of Zambia initially considered a complete shut down of internet access nationwide in the weeks leading up to the election day, stating that the idea was to forestall the spread of election misinformation. However, a quite dramatic decrease in internet traffic from WhatsApp and co. on election day, as observed by NetBlocks, seems to corroborate the fact that the government probably went ahead with the plan.
According to reports from Reuters, the keenly contested presidential election between sitting Zambian President Edgar Lungu against the opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, has already been marred by serious of viiolence. Although heavy military presence has been deployed everywhere, there’s still doubts about the true intentions of the government in shutting down the internet.
Naturally, the internet would have been very useful in spreading information that’s essential in ensuring voters’ security and safety, but quite unfortunately, voters have had to turn to the use of VPNs to stay abreast of what’s going on in and around them, most especially regarding the ongoing general elections in Zambia.
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What really was the plan of the government authorities? Was it to shut out Zambia from the rest of the world so as to have a non-transparent election that is devoid of true public scrutiny? Or was the decision really in the best interest of the Zambian people?
Efforts so far, to reach out to these social media companies for comments regarding the block has proved futile. However, Techgenyz will keep you updated in the event of any new happenings.