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[tor-talk] Report: Sierra Leone network disruptions amid 2018 runoff elections


Today OONI and Sierra Leone's Campaign for Human Rights Development
International (CHRDI) published a joint research report examining the
network disruptions that occurred last weekend amid Sierra Leone's 2018
runoff elections.

Our report is available here:


Throughout the election period, we have been coordinating on the
collection and analysis of OONI Probe network measurements. OONI data
did not show any signs of internet censorship, but the testing of
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger indicated some form of performance
degradation on the network.

Last weekend, locals reported that an internet blackout occurred
following the runoff elections, so we referred to third party data
sources to investigate further.

Google traffic and BGP announcement data aggregated and published by
RIPE show that two network disruptions occurred in Sierra Leone last

1. In the early hours of 30th March 2018 (before the runoff elections)

2. Late at night on 31st March 2018 and in the early hours of 1st April
2018 (after the runoff elections)

We reached out to Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB), Africell, Orange,
and ACE to better understand how and why the two network disruptions

So far, we have only received a reply from the Vice Chair of ACE, who
claims that the network disruption was caused by an ACE submarine cable
cut and that they did not receive any government orders to switch off
the internet.

SALCAB has also released a public statement, denying reports regarding
government orders to shut down the internet, and arguing that the
network disruptions were caused by issues pertaining to the cable cut.

It's worth highlighting though that the two network disruptions appear
to be different.

In the first case, Google traffic and BGP data only show a partial
disruption (with only a few ASNs and subnets affected), and neighboring
Guinea and Liberia appear to have been affected as well. This could be
explained by the ACE cable cut.

In the second case however, Google traffic shows a complete drop in
traffic from Sierra Leone to Google Search, while BGP data shows that
most prefixes were withdrawn. No neighboring countries appear to be
affected by the second disruption, even though it was more severe than
the first. This suggests that an internet blackout likely occurred.

We will update our report when/if we receive further information from
the providers we reached out to.

Thanks for reading, and please feel encouraged to share any information
you may have on this case.

Thank you.

~ OONI team.

Maria Xynou
Research and Partnerships Coordinator
Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI)
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