The umbrella movement, as it became known, had been inhabiting parts of Hong Kong for months, shutting down highways and rejecting a few attempts to eliminate them.
Such tactics show no signs of delays – over the past three years there have been more Internet shutdowns each year – and can become a new norm since countries around the world are trying to limit online disagreement.
After the protests broke out as a result of a sharp rise in fuel prices this week, the Zimbabwean government ordered a three-day shutdown of the Internet – with police also firing tear gas on helicopter demonstrators and arresting dozens.
According to NetBlocks, which calculates the cost of internet closures globally, a three-day stay may cost the country's unstable economy over 1
7 million dollars.
Kuda Hove, from the media rights organization MISA Zimbabwe was working in his office when he first heard that the Internet was interrupted.
"WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook have been targeted and blocked," he told CNN. "By the afternoon (on Tuesday), the entire internet connection was lost."
While some Zimbabweans were able to bypass the virtual private networks (VPN) blocks – a common anti-censorship tool – others were left without access to messaging services or non-governmental sources of information.
"When we started receiving news to limit Internet traffic, we sent (information) about the use of VPN," said Hove. Within a few hours, the MISA hotline had created hundreds of calls for instrument setup.
"Techniques used to block access to information online, often dangerously undermine Internet closure should never become a normal one. "
CNN reached the Zimbabwean government to get a response but did not come back
"We saw a sharp increase in internet closures in 2018. And with the way 2019 started, it seems that things will not get any better soon," Berman Tay told CNN.
How Internet Eclipse Works
Methods of closing the Internet, especially the full ones, are quite simple. The government simply orders Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to disconnect from the outside world, such as turning off a home modem, but across the country.
The complete closure of the Internet across the country is the nuclear weapon of online censorship. And unfortunately for the affected, there are not many ways to oppose it.
"In situations like DRC and Gabon where the whole country was out of the net, there are not many things the community can do to bring people back online unless we organize and provide alternative infrastructure before the suspension comes into effect ,
This infrastructure does not exist and would be very difficult to build and operate effectively
While the mobile Internet service in theory may be broadcast in an excluded state from a neighboring country, there are technical limitations for scope and sk There are also major diplomatic obstacles to overcome: a government that cuts off its citizens first will not look too politely for neighbors to return them online
Completion of social media
Reducing people outside social media is easier and more complicated than full exclusion. While the social media blockade in theory can avoid some of the worst economic effects of a complete power outage, it is easier for the affected to bypass the blocks – especially if they are prepared in advance.
VPNs are the simplest way around each block. VPNs work to bypass censorship by sending all of their Internet access through encrypted tunnels, so your ISP can not say that you are trying to connect to a forbidden service and block you.
Authorities can always escalate if partial stops fail as they did in Zimbabwe this week. Hove, an IT & C expert, said VPNs have worked well to get people back online for most of Tuesday morning. But around 11.50 VPNs stopped working, and then we realized there was no Internet connection – we went into shutdown. "
VPN services themselves can also be blocked, even if ISPs can not find the sites the user is visiting, they can try to block VPNs or even the type of protocol they use to connect to them." Netflix and Hulu
However, these tactics are more than a hammer than a scalpel, and the blocking of all VPNs can significantly increase the census stake – VPNs are routinely used by large corporations and consulates but for secure communications and will definitely not be happy if they are offline
Fortunately censors have a more old-fashioned method of dealing with VPNs and other circumvention tools: fear
People in Xinjiang, a region of China undergoing draconian security and tight surveillance measures, regularly check their phones by the police at the checkpoints. Any censorship application that they remove, even those that are not specifically forbidden, can land them.
Hove is interested in the proposed cyber security bill in Zimbabwe, which may include penalties for people using VPNs and other tools to bypass the blocks. He also said that more education is needed on how to circumvent censorship.
"People need to learn more about how VPNs work because they had a misconception that they are working during a full Internet eclipse," he said. "People also need to be taught that some VPNs are just to collect data."