We woke up to reports that many internet users in Uganda were having difficulty accessing their favorite social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A few are able to log on although the service is much slower than usual, but most are completely locked out.
Social media has been very active during the campaign period, and it is believed that the government, through the telecom regulator, Uganda Communications Commission, has directed ISPs to restrict access to the top sites in an attempt to control the flow of information and reports of election related incidences.
Many independent parties said they had set up parallel tally centres and are expecting live updates from their agents at the various polling stations. Media houses and several citizens also planned to share live updates, whose visibility is now being hindered by the blocked sites.
As is always the case when such happens, many resorted to alternatives including email and Whatsapp to communicate with others and many workarounds are being shared.
Whereas the blocking of the sites hasn’t completely kept Ugandans off air, it definitely has impacted on the scale of the conversation today as many users don’t really know how to go about the unblocking, or even that it is possible to bypass the blocks.
It’s not yet clear which networks in particular have blocked social, but we’re getting reports of users on Airtel, MTN, Smart, Smile and Vodafone unable to log on, yet a few who haven’t been affected on MTN and Vodafone.
Airtel has blamed the issues on “technical challenges”.
— Airtel Uganda (@Airtel_Ug) February 18, 2016
How to bypass restrictions:
There’s a high chance you are accessing the internet on a mobile device this morning, fortunately there are several apps that you can install to help you bypass restrictions:
- Android: Tor, Betternet
- iOS: Onavo, Betternet
- Windows Phone: Hotspot Shield
- Opera Mini: Android, iOS
If you are on your computer, options include:
Would you like to suggest another workaround that we haven’t listed? Please share in the comments so that everyone can get access.