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Why Senegal has banned TikTok

By Quentin Velluet

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Posted on August 7, 2023 10:51

jad20230803-eco-senegal-suspension-tiktok-sonko-1256×628-1691050178 © Demonstrators clash with riot police in a district of Dakar on 3 June 2023. Leo Correa/AP/SIPA
Demonstrators clash with riot police in a district of Dakar on 3 June 2023. Leo Correa/AP/SIPA

The Chinese social media platform has been suspended in Senegal in response to demonstrations in support of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

TikTok, accused of being “the preferred network for malicious people to broadcast hateful and subversive messages that threaten the country’s stability”, has been suspended “until further notice”.

The announcement was made on 2 August by the Senegalese Ministry of Communications as the country and particularly its capital, Dakar, is in the grip of protests following the arrest and imprisonment of political opponent Ousmane Sonko on 31 July.

The viral video broadcasting platform is used by more than 450,000 people in the land of Teraanga, according to data from the Israeli company Start.io (formerly StartApp). Of these, 48% are aged between 25 and 34, and almost 51% are aged between 18 and 24. The majority of users (60%) are men.

Controversial material

Although mobile internet data had been cut off daily from 8am to 2pm since 31 July, TikTok remained accessible at night via fixed wireless internet or a VPN connection.

Last week, officials publically criticised the social network for the first time, although the platform has previously caused controversy in Senegal.

The case has not evolved in the meantime

In March, RESTIC, an association of self-employed ICT workers and small digital businesses, announced its intention to lodge a complaint against TikTok with Senegal’s commission of personal data protection (CDP).

A hearing for the case filed by RESTIC, headed by Moustapha Diakhaté, was due to be held at the CDP at the beginning of June but was postponed due to demonstrations.

“The case has not evolved in the meantime,” Diakhaté tells us.

Lack of respect vs ban

RESTIC criticises TikTok for relaying content that does not respect the “traditions” of the country, and for failing to comply with Senegalese legislation on personal data, particularly that of minors.

“RESTIC also argues against the storage of people’s information on servers located outside Senegal. This data may be used for other purposes, in particular for espionage,” the association said on 26 May.

While it agreed with the government on this point, RESTIC condemned internet censorship.

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