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Last week, Ghana became embroiled in a scandal regarding their election practices.

Ghana is widely acknowledged as one of Africa’s leading countries in terms of its democratic practices, but recently, the police chief of Ghana announced that social media would be shut down on voting day in November, between 5am to 7pm.

The ban is said to “ensure social media are not used to send misleading information” that could destabilise the country by allowing for the proliferation of false information. Ghana is not alone in this practice, as Ethiopia, Congo, Chad, Uganda and other African countries have shut down social media on election days without warning to users.

A similar crackdown occurred in Uganda, on an election day in February – with networks brought down, many users turned to virtual private networks (VPN) to circumnavigate the ban. Computer Science applicants should consider how the use of VPNs has spread throughout the world and what threat the possibility of overcoming these networks poses to the privacy and freedom of internet users.

HSPS applicants should consider the role of social media in determining elections in recent years, particularly in African countries which tweet more about politics than accounts in any other continent. In light of this, the takedown of social media in Ghana’s election should be considered seriously as a threat to the democratic process for many Ghanaians.

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