Facebook Downtime Highlights Centralization Consequences
PowerKee’s Bastion of Privacy #44 - Nigerians fear rehash of government overreach as social networks go offline
Netizens worldwide were shocked to find Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp offline for extended hours on October 5th, 2021. While the networks had suffered brief outages in the past, these were localized and fixed within a few hours. This event was different and it sparked varying degrees of panic and comic relief online.
In the latest Bastion of Privacy, we examine Nigerian users’ response to the blackout and how centralized power contributed to it. We also examine the consequences of centralizing too much power into too few hands and the risks these actions pose for the average person.
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Nigerians panic over social media blackout
As news of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram’s outage spread, most of the world reacted on Twitter with humor. However, the reaction in Nigeria was markedly different, with many netizens in that country fearing a permanent block.
These fears were well founded. On June 5th, 2021, the Nigerian government banned Twitter from operating in its cyberspace. This ruling was prompted by the platform deleting President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweets on allegations that they incited violence towards one ethnic group. Buhari responded by questioning Twitter’s political motives and moved to ban the platform entirely from Nigeria.
Observers around the world criticized the move. The United States warned that the ban undermined the ability of Nigerians to exercise their fundamental freedom, and claimed that it sent a poor message to citizens, investors, and businesses.
With one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, Nigeria’s citizens have resorted to remote jobs and online-based businesses to earn a living. Most of these businesses rely heavily on social media promotion and communication. As a result, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram have become heavily favored modes of communication with the outside world.
Despite the ban costing the Nigerian economy over $360 million and affecting many social enterprises, the government remains steadfast and isn’t concerned about stripping its citizens off their fundamental right to expression or privacy. After the Facebook outage, the initial reaction on Nigerian social networks was fear that the government had banned all social media from the country and jeopardized the livelihood of a majority of its citizens.
Relief as fears of centralized power recede
As the networks returned to regular service, Nigerians expressed relief that the move wasn’t another example of government overreach. In a blog post, Facebook listed a cascade of errors encountered during maintenance, which led to the protracted downtime.
Incidents such as these highlight the attractiveness of decentralized networks and privacy protocols. Decentralized networks like PowerKee are not dependent on a centralized architecture and are highly resilient to outages or an attempt of control by any central authority, including the government or any big corporation.
PowerKee is a cryptocurrency network that makes privacy easy. Users can transact cheaply and instantly while maintaining anonymity. The PowerKee protocol uses a mixture of zero-knowledge proofs and coin mixing to provide strong privacy to its users.