Internet cut in Ethiopia amid unrest following killing of singer
Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm that internet has been cut across most of Ethiopia from just after 6:00 a.m. UTC (9 a.m. local time) on Tuesday 30 June 2020 amid protests and unrest. Real-time metrics show that the country remains offline as of Friday afternoon 3:00 p.m. local time.
Update: #Ethiopia has been offline for 12 hours following the killing of Oromo singer and political activist #HaacaaluuHundeessaa; real-time network data show a select few internet connections restored but ordinary users remain cut off from the world⏱
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) June 30, 2020
The blackout comes amid reported protests in Addis Ababa after Oromo singer and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead on Monday night. 34-year-old Haacaaluu’s work is associated with the movement that saw the removal of Ethiopia’s previous prime minister.
The ongoing disruption incident has nation-scale impact affecting cellular and fixed-line networks and is not attributed to any known international connectivity issue or technical outage. Observable connectivity hovered between 1% and 2% through the shutdown’s initial hours with users reporting phone calls were also not being connected. National connectivity subsequently rose to between 5% and 9% of ordinary levels although ordinary users remained offline.
The internet shutdown is the most severe observed in Ethiopia since last year’s assassination and alleged coup attempt in the Amhara region, which network data show had total impact for over 100 hours and left the country largely offline for ten days. Aside from protests, Ethiopia has also previously used internet restrictions in an apparent bid to prevent cheating in school exams.
State-owned telco Ethio Telecom operates a national monopoly, which expedites the process of deactivating national internet and telephony services providing Ethiopian authorities an effective internet “kill switch.” A tendering process was opened up to external telecommunications industry investors last year but it remains unclear whether those arrangements can now realistically proceed, and if so whether they could deliver a more resilient internet topology in the current political climate.
Beyond impact to fundamental rights, each day the internet remains shut in Ethiopia runs up a bill in excess of $4.5 million USD in terms of economic impact to GDP according to the Cost of Shutdown Tool, which combines telecom industry and development indicators to assess the impact of internet disruptions on digital prosperity.
Update: 72 hours after #Ethiopia shut down the internet, the public remain cut off with connectivity at just 9% of ordinary levels⏱
PM Abiy Ahmed says internet is no fundamental right.
As the blackout continues to put lives at risk, we disagree.
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) July 3, 2020
Ethiopia’s reactive approach to political developments often involving limitations on public expression has been subject to domestic and international criticism. Authorities allege that internet use drives ethnic unrest, citing the circulation of misinformation as grounds for the country’s information blackouts.
Politically motivated Internet shutdowns have intensified in severity and duration under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed despite the country’s rapid digitalization and reliance on cellular internet connectivity in recent years.
Background and related news:
- Internet cut off in Ethiopia amid outcry over death of singer-activist – CNN
- Hachalu Hundessa: Internet shutdown in Ethiopia amid unrest at singer’s killing – Euronews
- Statue of Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie is smashed to pieces in Wimbledon park – Daily Mail
- Slaying of Ethiopian singer triggers protests – Reuters
- Outrage over Ethiopia’s continuing internet blackout (2019) – Al Jazeera
NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.
A summary of data visualizations used in this report:
- Network Connectivity (National): Internet providers and networks serving the affected region are visualized in a stacked time-series histogram to identify the start and end times of an internet shutdown event. Scales on the y-axis are adjusted to match localized maxima while minima indicate periods when networks became unreachable. The x-axis represents Universal Coordinated time (GMT+0).
- Standard: Connectivity levels on the y-axis correspond directly to the observed number of reachable connections, as with National Connectivity charts.
NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.