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On patrol in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, during the shutdown. Photo: Zinyange AuntonyAFP/Getty Images

Zimbabweans protesting economic distress and high costs of living this week attempted to enforce a three-day national shutdown by blocking roads and pressuring businesses to close.

The government responded by blocking access to the internet. This comes just weeks after authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo blocked the internet to stop "fictitious" election results from spreading (perhaps they prefer to spread them themselves).

The latest: "Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Ltd., the country’s biggest mobile-phone operator, said Wednesday night it’s still blocking access to some social-media sites on government instructions," per Bloomberg.

The bigger picture: Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer notes that internet censorship is a major concern ahead of general elections this year in Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Botswana.

  • Election-related social media shutdowns have been reported in Ethiopia, Chad, Uganda and elsewhere. In Ghana, which has a comparatively strong democracy, social media was blocked on election day in 2016.

What to watch: China's global influence could have a profound effect on internet freedom. Per Quartz, China "isn’t just tightening online controls at home but is becoming more brazen in exporting some of those techniques abroad" through "official training, providing technological infrastructure to authoritarian regimes, and insisting that international companies accept its content regulations even outside of China."

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

3 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump with Michael Flynn in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped Tuesday night.

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