Internet shutdowns at election times. The case of Uganda

Authors: Lisa-Marie Garbe*,
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: elections, Africa, ICT
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years, we have witnessed an increasing number of Internet shutdowns in countries across the world, most commonly employed during times of political contention such as elections. While most existing studies have highlighted the impact of Internet shutdowns on the mobilization of protestors, little attention has been paid to their specific role during elections. In Uganda, by cutting access not only to social media, but also to mobile money services, the government systematically tampered the polling process during the 2016 presidential elections. Based on qualitative interviews with polling agents and politicians from different opposition-leaning districts in Uganda, I provide evidence for different mechanisms by which the shutdown undermined a democratic electoral process. More generally, the Ugandan case demonstrates how the manipulation of Internet access during elections complements analogue forms of election fraud in the digital era.

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