In January 2019, Zimbabwe's busiest cities were rocked by turbulent demonstrations and clashes between protesters and police. The images and messages of resistance in the streets were projected to the world through the Internet and social media — until the ZANU–PF Government initiated a full Internet shutdown.
Zimbabwe is not alone in this experience. The uprising in Egypt in 2011; the harrowing scenes in Sudan and the Kashmir region in 2019; the continued acts of censorship in Ethiopia and China - all of these are instances where social unrest and political turbulence have flowed from, and become entangled with, the repercussions of an Internet shutdown.
This investigation of Zimbabwe’s shutdown explores classic theories of the crowd and delves into the concept of resonance to answer the central question: why do Governments shut down the Internet when faced with civil unrest?
"Oh, you're studying Law? Great! Now I have someone who'll get me out of trouble!"For the past three years, this has been the most common response I've received when someone learns that I'm a Law student. (That's if they don't bring up how much reading I must be doing or how much I'll earn as a lawyer.)
Two thoughts cross my mind whenever I get this response: