REPORTAGE - Dat lijkt een hypothetische vraag, maar de regering van Togo zette begin september het internet uit in een poging om protesten tegen de regering te beteugelen. Aangezien in Togo internet min of meer een synoniem is voor WhatsApp, had de afsluiting verwachte en onverwachte consequenties:
For thousands of businesses and professionals who depended on the web for work, it had been a highly stressful period. The shutdown had undermined their faith in the fragile digital transition.
In all likelihood, sexual activity also dropped off. WhatsApp is the country’s biggest dating app and casual sex is commonplace.
Another surprising effect was that productivity rocketed. Togolese people, from civil servants to police officers, often need to be dragged away from WhatsApp; now, they could get on with their work.
Het afsluiten van internet om te protesten te betugelen was echter geen slimme zet:
The government could have been smarter. The best way to divert our youth from politics would have been to give them free, unlimited internet access a few days before the protests, and drop the price of beer and condoms – all the while playing “Be safe, live long” songs on the radios. The youngies would have been watching porn, WhatsApping and YouTubing, and would have been too distracted to think about politics.
Shutting down the internet achieved the opposite. Far from limiting youth mobilisation, it galvanised word of mouth and turned many neutrals against the regime. To young people for whom the internet had become so much part of the daily routine, the shutdown felt like an intrusion, a burglary of their personal life.