Disconnected: Zimbabwe’s Internet Shutdown

AIn January 2019, Zimbabwe’s busiest cities were rocked by turbulent demonstrations and clashes between protestors and police. The images and messages of resistance in the streets were projected to the world through the Internet and social media—until the ZANU–PF Government initiated a full Internet shutdown. Zimbabwe is not alone in this experience; Internet shutdowns are a phenomenon on the rise around the world. This investigation of Zimbabwe’s shutdown explores classic theories of the crowd and delves into the concept of resonance to answer the central question: why do Governments shut down the Internet when faced with civil unrest?

Special thanks to:

Dr Anne Alexander, Co-ordinator, Cambridge Digital Humanities Network, University of Cambridge 

Dr Illan Wall, Reader, School of Law, University of Warwick 

Sources:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171

UN Human Rights Council resolution 38/7, The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet

Interception of Communications Act [Chapter 11:20] last accessed 11 April 2019 

Le Bon G, Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind(Batoche Books 2000) 19  

Durkheim É, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (Dover Publications 2012) 271-272  

Vargas-Leon P, ‘Tracking Internet Shutdown Practices: Democracies and Hybrid Regimes’ in Musiani F, Cogburn DL, DeNardis L and Levinson NS (eds) The Turn to Infrastructure in Internet Governance. Information Technology and Global Governance (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) 

Aouragh M and Alexander A, ‘The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution’ (2011) 5 International Journal of Communication 

Borch C, ‘Crowd theory and the management of crowds: A controversial relationship’ (2013) 61 Current Sociology 584 

Howard P, Agarwal S and Hussain M, ‘When Do States Disconnect Their Digital Networks?’ (2011) 14 The Communication Review 216 

Laursen RB, ‘Revisiting Gustave Le Bon’s crowd theory in light of present-day critique’ (2017) 20 Sport in Society 1838 

Other Resources 

Access Now, ‘Internet Shutdowns in Context’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Access Now, ‘#KeepItOn: Joint letter on keeping the internet open and secure in Zimbabwe’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Gordillo G, ‘Resonance and the Egyptian Revolution’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Gordillo G, ‘The Speed of Revolutionary Resistance‘ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Magaisa A, ‘Zimbabwe – Silence of the Birds‘ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Mawarire E, ‘THE NATIONAL STAY AWAY IS ON WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Media Institute for Southern Africa, ‘High Court sets aside internet shut down directives’ last accessed 11 April 2019  

Media Institute for Southern Africa, ‘Urgent Chamber Application’

Runyanga N, ‘The Case for Internet Shutdown‘ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, ‘Monitoring Report in the Aftermath of the 14 January to 16 January 2019 “Stay Away” and Subsequent Disturbances’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

‘150 percent price rise fails to fill Zimbabwe’s fuel pumps’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

‘Fury as Zimbabwe doubles fuel prices’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

‘Zimbabwe currency crisis: No cash, no bread, no KFC’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

‘Zimbabwe election: Mnangagwa vows ‘brighter tomorrow’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Zimbabwe high court orders government to restore full internet’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Zimbabwe police fire live rounds during general strike protests’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Zimbabwe ‘state agents’ tried to cover up post-election violence, say doctors’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is ‘foretaste of things to come‘’ last accessed 11 April 2019 

Music 

Swiftwind by Lee Rosevere (Attribution-NonCommercial) 

Thoughtful by Lee Rosevere (Attribution) 

Past Catching Up, by Lee Rosevere (Attribution-NonCommercial) 

Minus by Nctrnm (Attribution)

Cloudloop by Lee Rosevere, (Attribution) 

Puzzle Pieces by Lee Rosevere (Attribution) 

Fibonacci by Jahzzar (Attribution-ShareAlike) 

Sound Effects  

Power of the people from listentostatic (Attribution) 

TrumpProtest from mloveless89 (Public domain) 

Protest chant from fredzed (Public domain) 

‘A Caravan of Protesters walking from Mabvuku Tafara towards Town.  

14/1/2019 7am’ (used with permission) 

Vibration from jazbavac (Public domain) 

Texting from squashy555 (Public domain) 

Texting from KevalP420 (Public domain) 

Protest02 from karymronda (Public domain)

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