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    What is Blocking and Filtering of Content?

    Module 3: Access to the Internet

    Although a less drastic measure than a complete internet shutdown, the blocking and filtering of content online can also hinder the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.

    Blocking/filtering has been defined as follows:

    “[T]he difference between “filtering” and “blocking” is a matter of scale and perspective.

    Filtering is commonly associated with the use of technology that blocks pages by reference to certain characteristics, such as traffic patterns, protocols or keywords, or on the basis of their perceived connection to content deemed inappropriate or unlawful;

    Blocking, by contrast, usually refers to preventing access to specific websites, domains, IP addresses, protocols or services included on a blacklist.”

    For example, in March 2020 social media sites were blocked in Guinea during a referendum;(1) and in October that same year, a general shutdown of the internet ensued during the General Election.(2) Even after the general connection was re-established, users reported that certain sites, specifically Facebook, remained blocked for a few more weeks.  Guinea is unfortunately far from the only African country to implement such techniques in recent years.(3) In 2018, after an extensive period of blocking a long list of websites, including media outlets and prominent websites known for their reporting on protests in the country, the Ethiopian government unblocked 264 websites, although instances of blocking of social media occurred again in 2022.(4)


    1. Access Now, ‘A broken promise to #KeepItOn: Guinea cuts internet access and blocks social media on referendum day’ (2020) (accessible at: Back
    2. Access Now, ‘How internet shutdowns are threatening 2020 elections, and what you can do about it’ (2020) (accessible at: BBC, ‘Africa internet: Where and how are governments blocking it?’ (2020) (accessible at: Back
    3. BBC, ‘Africa internet: Where and how are governments blocking it?’ (2020) (accessible at: Back
    4. Freedom on the Net, ‘Ethiopia’ (2022) (accessible at: Back