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Spotlight on Africa

Cameroon internet shutdown inspires punitive proposal targeting African governments

Cameroonian authorities switched off the internet in the country's Anglophone regions in January.
Cameroonian authorities switched off the internet in the country's Anglophone regions in January. Photo: Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images/AFP

Spotlight on Africa this week discusses a proposal which would punish African governments if they shut down access to the internet. The punitive measures have been inspired by a three-month shutdown in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions that the authorities have imposed following a series of protests and demonstrations. The plan by some internet service providers would restrict African governments’ access to internet resources if they stop their citizens from accessing the web. Authors of the proposal hope the idea will inspire more debate on censure of the World Wide Web in Africa and how to prevent it. Various discussions on this text will take place before a meeting of the regional internet registry body, Afrinic, at the end of May when the policy could be adopted.

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Andrew Alston, Liquid Telecommunications

Q&A: Andrew Alston

“We came up with a proposal. If governments want to shut down the internet there needs to be some punitive action. We looked at this and thought, if we stop allocating them internet addresses and resources, maybe this will have an effect. Particularly, if they keep doing it we’ll take those resources away. We realise it’s not potentially a perfect solution, but by putting that policy up there we create debate, we create a spotlight on the issue and we give the internet community a chance to comment, refine and add their own ideas. So, we end up with something more concrete to hopefully end this situation of internet shutdowns that we’re seeing so commonly in Africa.”

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