>> Sudanese authorities are reportedly blocking access to popular social media platforms. They have traditionally been used to organize and broadcast nationwide antigovernment protests triggered by an economic crisis. Sudan has been rocked by near daily demonstrations over the past two weeks. Police have retaliated, firing tear gas at protesters.
President Omar al-Bashir has urged citizens to remain calm, but protesters have set alight ruling party buildings and have called on the leader, who took power in 1989, to step down. That's led to a state of emergency in a country where the state has always tightly controlled traditional media.
That's why the Internet has become a key information battleground and why the shutdown is so distressing for the Sudanese people. Authorities have not repeated the total Internet blackout they imposed during deadly protests in 2013, but they have confirmed that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have been closed down.
That hasn't stopped some determined protesters, though. Activists have been using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to organize the demonstrations. Hashtags in Arabic and English have been widely circulated from Sudan and abroad to let people know protest details, but digital rights NGOs have criticized the government's action. One of them, Netblock, says data it collected, including from thousands of Sudanese volunteers, provided evidence of an extensive Internet censorship regime.