Surprisingly, Zimbabwean government not requesting user information from Facebook and Google

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Back in 2009 Google became the first internet company to publish a transparency report and since then many other internet companies have followed suit. These reports detail information on government requests for user data, content removal and to what extent the internet companies complied with those requests. This leads to better understanding of censorship and surveillance as it relates to the discussion around free, open and secure use of digital technologies.

The trend observed in the reports is the increase in requests from African governments for user information and for content take-downs from the internet. Google, Facebook and Twitter have all seen growth in number of countries requesting information and also the number of requests per country over the years, with 2016 seeing the highest number of requests.

South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya and Egypt have consistently made requests to Google, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook got requests from 18 African countries in 2016, Google from 10 and Twitter from 5. This may shock some but the Zimbabwean government made not a single request, even at the peak of the Mawarire saga. You would think they at least reached out to Twitter but no, straight as an arrow is our government.

Before you rush to run your mouth on social media remember though that these reports by themselves do not show the true extent of government surveillance. You can bet your bottom dollar our communications are being monitored to some extent and there is some form of content censorship going on, which should be happening. The internet is an excellent tool for criminals and so there should be some form of law to protect the populace, such laws are coming soon.

That there should be law enforcement presence on the internet cannot be argued against. The extent of their activities however is where the concern is. Nothing they do should undermine the freedoms and rights we are entitled to. By monitoring our communications, that should be to apprehend criminals and not to seek out and intimidate those with different political beliefs.

Although there has been an increase in requests from African countries for user information note that all the African countries combined have nothing on the American government. So before we run off lamenting these governments of ours let us remember it is a global ‘problem.’

What do you think about all this? Could this be because of the relatively low usage of these social media sites in Zimbabwe compared to those other African countries? Would you say you have freedom of expression on the internet? Do you think you are being monitored and to what extent? Let us know what you think.




  1. Robert Ndlovu

    Google does not store content but links to content. So they cant remove content they dont own nor host.

    1. Garikai Dzoma

      Actually Google does store information and content lots and lots of it. Services such as YouTube, Cloud Compute and Gmail all have third party content stored on them. The U.S Government for example frequently requests information such as the identity of someone who uploaded a certain video etc.

  2. David

    It’s mostly used to stop illegal streaming and downloading of content e.g. music movies live invents an its not in government or operators interest with poor internet service an lack of broadcasters

    1. fiend

      You need a bit of schooling.

      This isn’t a fairy tale.

      Tech companies are fighting to disclose exactly what is being requested… gagged by secrecy laws. It has very little to do with legal matters like piracy. It is surveillance.

      Google NSA Dragnet, GCHQ, Snowden, read NY Times & Washington Post, Wired, stories on internet surveillance

  3. MacdChip

    Please do not alarm people on things you do not properly understand. This publication is suppose to be technical, not hearsay and unfound theories!

    For our government to be able to monitor internet communication, they need to hook into every exit ISPs router, which is not possible at the moment as we currently do not have a Internet Exchange where all ISP are connected.

    On the facebook monitoring, our government is relying on individual snooping and reporting back to gvt.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      That’s exactly what the article is about. Our government is limited in their monitoring of our internet communications. They can only snoop as you called it. There is no alarming of people, the truth is the government IS snooping but most of our communication is of no interest to them and they are only worried about influential people.
      The publication is gives specific details about all requests by governments for information on users on the various platforms. That means the government is following posts on Facebook for example and sees some user floating around ideas they do not approve of. Then they ask for the user’s information from Facebook. They need to initiate some legal process but even then Facebook might not comply. So yes, people should know that this is what is happening.
      MacdChip please do not start to post material the government does not deem. Do not let that material become popular lest you be deemed influential. In that day you will get a call. This is not to scare people but to not kid ourselves that there is no monitoring going on. We just aren’t influential enough.

      1. MacdChip

        You mentioned something about our government monitoring comms, lm saying they cannt bcoz they do not have the capacity to do so. Im also saying even if they have the capacity to do say, the environment is not set up right to allow our gvt to do so.

        They can have laws in place yes, but laws in caught are backed up by evidence which needs to be collected by monitoring which the gvt cannot do presently.

        So l still say do not cause alarm, be there to inform.

        1. Leonard Sengere

          There is monitoring of comms going on. As mentioned, the extent our government is able to monitor is limited and since they are limited that’s why it was mentioned that it is mostly the influential people who are being monitored. The environment might not allow them to properly monitor even those few influential people but they supplement their limited online monitoring with other surveillance techniques.
          Again, most of us un-influential people need not worry until we become influential.

  4. gl

    You look down upon your own government, you look down upon yourselves

    1. MacdChip

      Im just stating the facts from my understanding of technology! When it comes to tech, our gvt is still decades behind. Just check how the digitising is going, you will be clued

  5. Cheated

    Macd is right they simply don’t need to do anything… They probably monitoring but they simply don’t care… They going to win the next election the rest of the info is to blackmail certain individuals

  6. Anonymous

    Amana don’t underestimate our government. Do that to your own detriment. Like Cheated said, they blackmail certain individuals. They also monitor those individuals. Isu ana tsuro fire away. Hapana dhiri nesu. Feel free people, make your own #thjsflag.

    1. MacdChip

      Have you ever checked our gvt websites, or their radio and tv broadcast? Then you tell me they can do better in other areas??

  7. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    When a government requests information from Facebook, it’s a story. When they don’t, it’s still a story. Really guys?

  8. Clearmind

    I agree yes our government is still behind in terms of the forms of technology needed however given the nature of our government I for one believe there is some form of monitoring going on. Requesting user data from Social media companies would prove that they(Government) are really monitoring and I doubt they would want that. My guess is not requesting user info is in a way a strategy to monitor social media activities without alarming the people

  9. Cde Fatso

    We live in a state with an interweb network that is free from government scrutiny, this is a good thing so why be surprised when our government does not patrol the internet and hound international social media companies for data to sort through and spy on us, are you insinuating that the surprise comes from a government that is run by a conservative party not doing the obvious thing by snooping, rather than write to congratulate our government for not snooping, Americans and the rest of the developing world want this hands off approach from their governments, This is good you dimwit (author with poorly researched facts)

    nd the accusations you make, do yo have proof of government surveillance online. Tsve kutaura nezvirikuitwa naivo ana Goolge nana Facebook, literally harvesting your user data for commercial use, that is the reall issue here. Chimboenda pa Internet uverenge and get an informed opinion on these things before wanyora, you insult the intelligence of your readers.

    And the conspiracy theorists commenting on here (also writing then commenting, vana Sengere) just get a hold of yourselves, This is not an Orwellian society we live in, just conspiracies perpertuated by the constant reiteration by any and everyone of a purported Big Brother government. We have a government that does not police our internet bravo! Chizviregai zvakadaro.