Censored continent: understanding the use of tools during information controls in Africa: Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and Zimbabwe as case studies.
Between 2019 and 2020, The Tor Project has had the opportunity to serve as the host organization of OTF Information Controls Fellow, Babatunde Okunoye. Today, we are sharing here the publication of his research report, titled "Censored continent: understanding the use of tools during Information controls in Africa: Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and Zimbabwe as case studies."
As part of his fellowship, Babatunde examined the use of Internet censorship circumvention tools in Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, four countries in Africa with varying degrees of Internet censorship, including Internet bandwidth throttling, social media app restrictions, and website blocks. Interviews were done with 33 people, including students, civil society members, people in business, and teachers, revealing how communities mobilized to defeat censorship.
Important findings include:
- Civil society played an important role in mobilizing people to use circumvention tools.
- Some of the most important VPN adoption reasons were community recommendations, cost of use, and ease of use.
- Messaging apps like Signal and Telegram, which were unknown to government censors and were not blocked, served as alternative messaging channels when more popular apps like Facebook and WhatsApp were blocked.
- People used innovative means of sharing VPNs, such as through USBs and Bluetooth, when downloads were no longer possible from official sources such as websites of VPN makers and smartphone App stores.
His research in the field helped us to inform the user research work on improving Tor Browser as an essential circumvention tool.
If you have questions or comments regarding this study, you can reach out to Babatunde directly: to.csgroups[at]gmail.com.