November 30 2023 GM
Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and projects updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.
- Date: Thursday, November 30
- Time: 9am EST / 2pm UTC (what time is it in my city?)
- Who: Zaituni Njovu
- Moderator: Erin
- Where: On TCU Mattermost "IF Square" Channel.
- Don't have an account to the TCU Mattermost? you can request one following the directions here.
Preparing for the 2024 Election and Addressing Surveillance and Censorship in Tanzania
In this session we will talk about what is happening with the digital rights in the Africa Region, specifically in Tanzania. Zaituni Njovu, Executive Director at Zaina Foundation, will share the current privacy right violation in Tanzania and discuss instances of Surveillance and Censorship in this country as they prepare toward elections in 2024 and 2025.
Zaituni will also speak about the different initiatives her organization is doing at Zaina Foundation to support the Tanzania community on Internet freedom and Freedom of Expression. Lastly, Zaina Foundation is open to collaborate with any organisation on defending Internet Freedom in Tanzania.
Zaituni Njovu is the Executive Director at Zaina Foundation an organization whose mission is to promote digital rights and inclusion in Tanzania through Privacy capacity building, Policy reform, Research, Advocate for Internet Freedom in Africa and localization of technological tools into swahili language. She received the Human Rights Heroes award from Access Now in June 2019 due to her work supporting communities at risk in Tanzania through digital security training and localization of open source tools into swahili language. In 2022 she received two awards: one from Mwanamke na Uondozi for her efforts in reducing the digital gender gap in Tanzania during International Women’s Day and another one from WildAf as Champion in ending Online Gender Based Violence by using Innovation during 16 days of Activism.
👉🏾 This Glitter Meetup is part of the 2023 VPN Village, a two-week virtual series of events focused on VPN user education and solidarity. The sessions held over the last week of November and first week of December will focus on regional user education, legal challenges to using VPNs, and using and scaling your own circumvention tools.
Firstly, Zaituni, for those who are not familiar, can you give us a quick overview of the recent Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) regulations on VPN use in Tanzania?
- In October 2023, Tanzania Telecommunication Regulations Authority released a public notice to command all VPN users in Tanzania to register names and IP addresses of all VPN they use and insisted that using any software to bypass censorship or access restricted contents is illegal in Tanzania.
- Tanzanians have the right to use VPN because citizens need privacy in their communications and access to information is a constitutional right in Tanzania.
The TCRA has reported that the implementation of the VPN regulation is to support Regulation 16(2) of the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations of 2020 which bans Tanzanians from content deemed illegal. Can you give us a general idea of the kinds of content that have been branded illegal under this regulation and/or what content has been actively censored in Tanzania leading up to this point?
- Tanzania is heading to Elections in 2024 and 2025 for local government and presidential election respectively. History shows that Tanzania shutdown Internet during the last election back in 2020 for the first time.
- Basing on EPOCA Regulation of 2022. Illegal Contents in Tanzania include LGBTQ websites, Porn Website, Any content abuse children.
And related to the upcoming elections, did 2020 also show an increase in censorship and surveillance leading into the elections in addition to the internet shutdown? Has censorship of content extended beyond these categories of content that you know of? Or is there the expectation that it will, particularly leading into the election season?
- Yes, because of the relation ban use of VPN and we have seen Authority still amend that regulations to make sure fit gov needs not citizen like high fees for online televisions.
- The main reason of censorship on contents is to control flow of information in Tanzania and violation of at risk communities like LGBTQ.
- The regulation is good on the side of restricted contents which abuse children.
While it has only been about a month since implementation of the TCRA VPN regulation, what, if any, have been its early impacts? How are activists, media and civil society affected? Who will ultimately be the most impacted by the VPN regulation?
- These regulations created fear among activists, journalists, and other HRDs in Tanzania because it mentioned HRDs can be penalized either to imprisonment for 1 year or pay not less than 5million TZS (approx. $ 2000).
- Zaina Foundation are raising awareness to Human Rights Defenders in Tanzania include journalists and activists that use of VPN is our right for privacy online. But also we submitted request to government to amend EPOCA regulation.
How does the restricted information flow affect citizens' participation in the election? Or how do you anticipate it affecting such engagements?
- Not yet, but we are heading to election anything can happen. Tanzania is democratic country and access to information is essential especially during election period and protest. People were affected because we use information we receive for decision making during voting day that means which candidate is better than others for our country. Our rights of freedom of expression online and offline is violated.
In addition to Zaina Foundation's request to amend the EPOCA regulation, are there ways in which individuals and organizations are trying to circumvent the regulations or push back against them?
- We have Digital Rights Coalition as collective force we push the government on not to limit our right to privacy and freedom of expression in Tanzania.
In practice, are there individuals and civil society organizations that are actively following the new restrictions on VPN use? Or are individuals continuing to use VPNs without registration?
- Individuals still use VPN and no one went to Authority for VPN Registration.
How does the government plan on identifying when people are using VPNs to access restricted spaces, in the case of a shut down during the election? People are registering their VPN use?
- Practically they can not identify people who use VPN. They need people to go and tell them names of VPN, then they intend to block those VPN in Tanzania, as we are heading to election in 2024 and 2025. Example: Psiphon is the one of the popular VPN in Tanzania. We advocated for it during last election and is available into Swahili language.
- Currently we need to have more VPN partners for Tanzania community in order to have more options.
Interesting. So this is also in effect an attempt to harvest popular VPNs used in Tanzania to more effectively censor?
- Absolutely. Government is doing surveillance to find out which VPN are popular and is likely to be blocked during shutdown.
Do you have particular VPNs and circumvention tools in mind that work well within the context of Tanzania?
- Tor Browser, Proton VPN, Tunnel Bear, Psiphon and Rise Up VPN.
What are some of the biggest hurdles to using different VPN providers and circumvention tools for individuals in Tanzania? (ex: cost, speed, language)
- Main challenges are cost and language barrier.
Currently, is it only Psiphon that is accessible in Swahili?
- We have translated Psiphon and Tor Browser at Zaina Foundation. We are interested to translate more circumvention tools into Swahili language.
I think that RiseUp VPN may be one of the easiest to localize into Swahili on that list. TunnelBear and Proton will require negotiating with their respective teams.
- We are ready to translate it but we need connection with the tool team.
Going back to your comment about needing more VPN partners in Tanzania, can you share what that kind of partnership might look like? More communication with their tool teams? Localization support? Free subscriptions for users?
- We need easiest way to support community in Tanzania. Some VPN don't have free version for activists. Through partnership they can offer free version for activists close to election and we can translate into local language Swahili. We may run online campaign about VPN and tool team may join us during some of our Digital Security training (virtually).
How can organizations and individuals regionally and internationally with capacity help support the censorship and surveillance circumvention efforts in Tanzania?
- Zaina Foundation are open for new partnership and collaboration feel free to email me to email@example.com
- I'm also available on Signal, my number is +255 752 550009