On May 17, 2023, authorities in Guinea-Conakry restricted access to several social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok, and others, as confirmed by NetBlocks metrics.
The move came as the government called in the army to assist police in dealing with protests amid political unrest.
Guinea-based journalists and experts also reported that many Guinean news sites were inaccessible without using circumvention tools.
NetBlocks explained that VPN services could be used to work around this class of disruption, which allows users to circumvent government internet censorship measures. Despite authoritarian governments cracking down on the use of VPNs, this doesn’t seem to be the case in Guinea so far.
The social media blackout was implemented to disrupt two days of peaceful anti-government demonstrations planned for May 17 and 18 across the capital Conakry and some other major cities.
Unfortunately, internet shutdowns during times of political turmoil have become a relevant part of authoritarian governments’ playbook, as seen in Pakistan, Sudan, and Iran.
Pro-democracy activists have continued with further peaceful rallies despite the crackdown, voicing their discontent against the military junta that seized power in 2021.
Guinea is one of many West African regions where military governments have taken power following a wave of coup d’état since 2020.
As of writing, access to social media platforms and news sites in Guinea is still impossible without using a VPN or other circumvention software.
Sally Bilaly, a Conakry-based reporter, called on the transitional government to allow Guineans to access social media without any restrictions, stating that these are bad signals for the young democracy.