Social Media is Blocked – Now What?

A look at what happened when Uganda blocked social media sites on February 18, 2016.

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately, situations in which social media is blocked around the world are becoming increasingly common. At Golden Frog we believe everyone should have access to a free and open Internet devoid of censorship – which means when social media is blocked, we jump into action.

To illustrate how we respond to these social media blocks, I’ve taken a look at a recent situation when social media was blocked in Uganda. The case study below offers a peek inside what these blocks mean for us as a marketing team, and as a global VPN provider.

DAY OF THE BLOCK

7:45 am: We hear that social media is being blocked in Uganda.

7:50 am: We check trusted media outlets and Twitter to vet the news. And, it turns out to be true. The government of Uganda has blocked social media in conjunction with their election day. As reported by BBC the reason for the block is, “to make sure the services would not be used to bribe voters.”

8:00 am: We act quickly, working across teams to get our response ready. This includes designing images, writing content for our blog and crafting social messages. We then select a VyprVPN signup page, so we can provide people in Uganda with a way to access a free and open Internet.

blocked social vyprvpn

9:00 am: Within the hour we’re ready to start posting! We publish content to our blog and social channels, and get into the conversation online using the trending hashtags #UgandaDecides and #UgandaElections.

vypr_tweets (1)

10:00 am: We continue to monitor the situation throughout the day, sharing more messages and updating content as needed.

11:00 am: Word travels fast! We start to see VyprVPN appear in the news and conversation on social. VyprVPN is being mentioned as a way to retain access to social media in Uganda, despite the government block.

VyprVPN Uganda Social Media Tweet

12:00 pm: Now that we’re up and running the busiest part of our day is over, but the situation is not. We continue our efforts for the duration of the 4-day block to ensure we reach as many people as possible.

RESULTS

  • Our tweet was retweeted 308 times and liked 153 times, with ample engagement.
  • VyprVPN connections out of Uganda increased by over 3,000% on the day of the block.
  • Visits to our website from Uganda increased by nearly 20,000% after the block.
  • VyprVPN was mentioned by several news outlets and bloggers in relation to the block. One blogger cited our involvement in a blog post about the broader issue of regulating social media.

CONCLUSION

As a company that’s dedicated to a free and open Internet, Golden Frog is opposed to censorship and strives to provide access to an unrestricted Internet. These values are outlined in our Vision Paper, and we build tools like VyprVPN to make accessing this unrestricted Internet possible.

This case study illustrates the power of VPNs in providing unrestricted Internet access. People in Uganda who were able to connect via VyprVPN or other VPNs were ale to restore their freedom, and speak openly online during the political process. They were able to participate in the conversation and share their views surrounding the elections, which is a valuable right to free speech.

This case study also illustrates the importance of quick response in marketing. Censorship situations often develop suddenly and unexpectedly, making response time and organization crucial. In order to make the tools available when needed, we had to be ready to react – from the time before the event started throughout the process of getting into the conversation. It was important we worked as a team to coordinate our response and get our message out quickly. Social media served as an instrumental tool, enabling us to reach people around the globe.

This situation illustrates the power of the Internet in connecting people. It’s pretty incredible to think we were able to help people over 8,000 miles away in Uganda access social media. I’m proud to be part of a team that cares deeply about Internet freedom, and works to increase this Internet freedom around the world.

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Katie Fishman

Katie is Senior Marketing Manager at Golden Frog, and works on content, policy and a variety of other marketing activities. Katie is passionate about online privacy and loves to write.

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