Somalia Takes Action to Close TikTok and Telegram Platforms
Somalia’s Ministry of Communications and Technology has issued an order to the country’s internet service providers to block access to social media platforms TikTok and Telegram, as well as the gambling site 1xBet. The Minister of Communications and Technology, Jama Hassan Khalif, stated that this action is necessary to ensure security and combat terrorism. The ministry expressed concerns about the misuse of these platforms by terrorist groups, which undermines the safety and stability of society. Additionally, the ministry aims to protect the moral conduct of the Somali people by addressing the negative impact of communication and internet tools on their way of life.
The statement from Minister Khalif instructed the service providers to shut down the specified applications by Thursday, August 24, 2023, at 11:30 PM. Non-compliance with this order would lead to legal consequences. Among the reasons cited for blocking these platforms, it was highlighted that the al-Shabab militant group frequently utilizes Telegram to publish videos, press releases, and audio interviews with their leaders. Al-Shabab swiftly creates new accounts on Telegram each time their previous ones are removed. TikTok, on the other hand, is rapidly gaining popularity in Somalia, attracting young individuals and even government officials.
In response to these actions, TikTok released a statement in which they claimed to have removed over 280,000 videos that violated their guidelines during a specific period. They emphasized their commitment to sustaining a safe platform for users, highlighting their proactive approach in removing offending content before it is reported.
The Ministry’s decision has faced criticism from social media users, who argue that the power lies with the internet companies to comply with the shutdown. They assert that it is not in the companies’ interest to halt the services as the application is widely used and consumes significant data. Some users further criticize the government for implementing a blanket ban rather than formulating targeted policies addressing immoral social media accounts. They advocate for engaging with the platforms in question and establishing communication protocols to tackle specific accounts, thereby supporting Somali TikTok influencers who rely on the platform for their livelihood.
Defending the decision, Minister Khalif stated in an interview that these sites are detrimental to the state, emphasizing their misuse, role in creating security problems, and promotion of immoral behavior. He justifies the ban as a necessary measure to address these issues.
The specific number of individuals engaging with betting sites in Somalia has not been disclosed by the authorities. However, it is believed that these sites are sending large amounts of money out of the country. Minister Khalif claims that the popularity of betting on 1xBet even distracts government soldiers from their duty of defending the nation. He acknowledges the expansive nature of this usage and the government’s lack of knowledge concerning the individuals behind these sites within the country. Khalif deems it a crime, stating that such unregulated funds are neither permissible nor taxable.
In the past, the Somali government had ordered internet service providers to block al-Shabab websites, but some of these sites remain accessible globally to this day. The government has classified the dissemination of terrorist messages and the incitement of violence through social media as criminal acts. They intend to enforce the law against anyone who violates this resolution.
To address the dangers of communication and the internet, the Ministry of Communications and Technology has launched a public awareness campaign emphasizing the potential harm caused by the spread of unsubstantiated information and its impact on innocent individuals and society as a whole.