French Government Blocks TikTok to Curb Civil Unrest in New Caledonia – Christina Maas 5/15/24


France has imposed a state of emergency in New Caledonia in response to protests and riots, leading to a ban on TikTok as authorities seek to stabilize the region. The French government has taken these measures to address the unrest that erupted after a contentious vote extending voting rights in the territory’s provincial elections and is the latest example of a government restricting internet access as a means to control citizens.

The local government representative in New Caledonia, under the directive of the newly declared state of emergency, took the significant step of banning TikTok, citing public safety concerns. This action was part of broader measures that included increased powers for security forces such as house detentions, weapon seizures, and restrictions on movement to prevent further disorder.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal emphasized the necessity of these measures, stating, “No violence will be tolerated,” and highlighted the deployment of troops to secure critical infrastructure like ports and the international airport, which is already closed to international flights. The announcement followed shortly after the death of a French gendarme injured in the riots, bringing the death toll to four, as confirmed by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

According to France 24, the violence began following approval of a bill by the French National Assembly, which aimed to expand the electorate in New Caledonia’s provincial elections by including residents from mainland France, a move critics argue could undermine Indigenous influence in favor of pro-France politicians. The reform passed amidst intense debates with a vote of 351 to 153.

These measures come as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to reinforce France’s strategic interests in the Pacific amidst competition from global powers like China and the United States. The recent riots reflect deep-seated tensions within New Caledonia, particularly among the Indigenous Kanak population, who have historically been wary of French attempts to assert control.

In recent years, governments around the world have increasingly turned to internet shutdowns as a tool to manage civil unrest and curtail riots, raising significant concerns about the infringement on civil liberties. This tactic involves restricting access to the internet or certain social media platforms to disrupt communications and organization among protesters….

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