When Kazakhstan Turned Off the Internet: Did a Five-Day Crackdown and Flood of Misinformation Send a Message to Activists or Ignite a Movement for Political Reform?

This was no ordinary internet blackout. For five days, the ninth largest country in the world was a black box.

On the evening of January 5, 2022, we set our respective alarms for 5:30 a.m. We wanted to get the earliest possible updates from our colleagues in Kazakhstan, who had been chronicling three days of demonstrations as they spread from the western oil-producing city of Zhanaozen to other urban centers across the Central Asian nation. Early morning on the East Coast was already late afternoon in Kazakhstan, yet when we woke up, nothing seemed to have changed. Our friends’ Instagram stories were 12 hours old; the single checkmarks next to our WhatsApp and Telegram messages to activists and journalists we know signaled that they hadn’t been delivered. A sinking feeling of worry set in.

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