The rapid growth of social media has changed the way we interact with one another. These channels have been established to allow us all (well, anyone with internet access) to share, connect, interact and collaborate. Essentially, social platforms amplify our voices and that is exactly what makes these communication channels great.
However, despite many of us living in countries that embrace and encourage the use of social media – President Obama is considered the “Social Media President” thanks to his 2008 campaign and Prime Minister Cameron is active on many social platforms – there are several countries who censor these mediums.
For roughly 2 weeks in 2014, then Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan banned Twitter across the country. After incriminating audio recordings revealing corruption inside his government appeared on the platform, Tayyip said his enemies were attempting to sully his reputation and were abusing the Twitter channel. Stating, “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” Twitter was blocked just after midnight on Thursday, 20th March 2014.
Again in 2015, the “Big Three” – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube- were blocked. The official reasoning? To stop images of state prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was being held hostage by far-Left militants, being shared across platforms. A few hours after the picture was released on social media, Kiraz died from bullet wounds after security forced stormed the Istanbul courthouse where he was held captive.
After the disputed presidential election held in 2009, Iranians took to social media to voice their dissent and to organise protests. This led to the abrupt ban of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Although the country censors social media, President Hassan Rouhani has made social media, in particular Twitter, a central tool in his administrative duties. Having two Twitter accounts – one in English and one in Farsi- he uses the accounts consistently to tweet about domestic and foreign affairs.
Even the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is equally active on social media, having shared upwards of 800 photos of himself speaking at evens and meetings with his 183,815 followers.
In 2009 China blocked the “Big Three” social media channels. This umbrella banning coincided with riots that occurred in Xinjiang by Uighurs, China’s Muslim ethnic minority. Not wanting to provide ways in which citizens could publish first hand accounts of political and/or national events, China has also blocked server proxies that offer software to side step the blocked social media firewalls.
Although “Western” social platforms are uniformly banned in the country, China-based social sites such as Weibo are allowed to operate. Localising the functionality of social media allows China promote its own domestic tech industry.
Vietnam has unofficially blocked Facebook since 2009, although the ban is occasionally – and randomly – lifted. And why? As with many countries who block social media, the government do not want citizens to be able to criticise policies, to be able to share real-time un-censored news or to have the capability of organising for the purpose of protesting.
North Korea is a particularly interesting case as the country doesn’t just ban social media, but the internet in its entirety for the mass population. Access is only available with special authorisation and only used for government purposes.
However, posing a potential problem to North Korea’s aim of controlling all media outlets – including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. – in 2013 the country started to allow foreign visitors access to 3G on their smartphones.
Photos and posts shared on these platforms by foreigners provide a “behind-the-veil” look at the inner workings of the country. However, understandably for the hermit state, such access is cause for concern as the flow of information about the country is no longer under direct control.
Although social media has become second nature to many of us, as we seamlessly switch between platforms on our phones, desktops and tablets, in many countries civil liberties are controlled wholly by the state with social channels blocked.
Click our “Countries That Block Social Media” infographic to enlarge the image.
Lucky for many of us, we have access to social media platforms and have control over the content published across these channels, so if you’re interested in social media marketing, get in touch with us today via firstname.lastname@example.org.