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Copyright © 2020 (Eleanor Marchant and Nicole Stremlau). This article explores the prevailing ways Internet shutdowns are currently understood and makes the case for a new conceptualization—one that recognizes the inherent diversity of cases and how and why they are employed. To do so, we focus on Internet shutdowns in Africa, drawing on data collected during our ongoing research into the politics and practice of social media and conflict in Africa. Though Africa is not the only continent on which Internet shutdowns are taking place, it provides a landscape where the presence of various alternative versions of shutdowns produces important reactions and policy outcomes. A spectrum approach allows for more nuanced conceptualization rather than thinking of shutdowns as a homogeneous technique. This recognizes the variations—both subtle and extreme—among different aspects of Internet shutdowns, including their frequency, duration, breadth, depth, and speed. It also helps to situate this practice more clearly within the wider landscape of other approaches to censorship and offers indications as to how Internet shutdowns might evolve in the future.


Journal article


International Journal of Communication

Publication Date





4327 - 4342