Cameroon bans Twitter, protests likely to continue

By on March 10, 2011, 9:52 AM
The government of Cameroon has banned mobile Twitter, according to the twittermobile account: "Twitter SMS on MTN Cameroon has been suspended by the Cameroonian government. Affected users should contact their MTN representative." The goal is to stop opposition protests in the West African state, which have been inspired by the recent uprising in other Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.

Cameroon's president Paul Biya believes he can cut off a possible revolution by eliminating one of the tools that protesters might use. Last month's protests were quickly disrupted and put down by the government's security forces. Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande believes Biya's plans have backfired since blocking the service merely increased awareness of the people, who didn't even grasp the potential of Twitter as a tool for political activism. Here's the crux of his argument:

Obviously, the government has failed to learn the lesson from North Africa, particularly in Tunisia where the Ben Ali regime was still toppled even though it had banned all social media sites for years and had engaged in a sophisticated cyber-war with Tunisian digital activists. The government has also completely misread the lessons of the February 23 protests; even though Twitter played a prominent role in informing the world of what was happening in Cameroon, over 95% of the tweets which the international media relied on for updates did not originate from within Cameroon. It was information obtained via mobile phones, regular SMS and email which ended up on Twitter and not real-time tweets from activists on the ground. Thus, banning the Twitter short code does little to change the balance of power online.

Cameroon is a country with around 725,000 Internet users, out of a population of 19.1 million people (July 2009 estimate). That's an Internet penetration rate of just 4 percent.

Twitter is now blocked in a handful of countries, including China, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Libya. If anything, this is a good thing for the startup as it increases media attention and makes it look like Twitter matters more than it actually does.





User Comments: 5

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PinothyJ said:

Don't they have advisors that this has to go through before it becomes official? Surely there's a guy half-intelligent enough working FOR their government who says: "This is going to backfire and the whole world is not only going to become aware of everything, but they are going to be laughing at you."

Maybe it is just me...

Omnislip said:

PinothyJ said:

Don't they have advisors that this has to go through before it becomes official? Surely there's a guy half-intelligent enough working FOR their government who says: "This is going to backfire and the whole world is not only going to become aware of everything, but they are going to be laughing at you."

Maybe it is just me...

I think they dare not question their (soon to be ex) despot...

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This is kinda like trying to stop people from speeding by banning only red sports cars.

But I think this also reflects the "magic spell" view that a lot of people, especially unsophisticated people, take of computers and everything in them. You use a specific program or a specific site to accomplish a specific task. If that specific program or site is no longer available, you are now unable to accomplish your specific task. Information to the contrary will often be met with skepticism.

So to these people, you ban Twitter, information can no longer be sent out via Twitter. Mission accomplished.

Leeky Leeky said:

I think they dare not question their (soon to be ex) despot...

Might have something to do with it, as I fail to see how those in a position to stop this would allow it to happen when 99% of the world could tell you the end result in 30 seconds flat.

Are we seriously about to see the entire Northern quadrant of the African continent fall one by one?!?

I'm actually getting scared now tbh!

aj_the_kidd said:

Cameroon's president Paul Biya believes he can cut off a possible revolution by eliminating one of the tools that protesters might use.

Funny thing is cutting off twitter might just actually trigger the revolution. I'm guessing the next story will be "Cameroon cuts off internet", because that's a proven method.......... for failure

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