Zimbabwe recently decided to ban Internet access to its citizens and this was confirmed by the owner of the largest telecommunications company in the country. This would mean people cannot access to their favourite social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp through the normal regular way and would have to use tricks to do that.
If you check on Twitter, you can see that Zimbabweans have employed two tactics to get around the Internet ban problem: Have VPNs and signing up for Telegram Messenger. Downloading and using VPNs has become standard practice for people faced with an Internet ban and they use it to access the banned social media sites.
Interesting enough, it seems that they don’t need a VPN to access Telegram Messenger and this has resulted into Zimbabweans rallying each other to download and install the app.
Telegram people will notice a massive traffic of downloads in Zimbabwe 😂😂
— Gee’z not Hot🔥 (@tatendaGTM) January 17, 2019
— munotida (@realmunotida) January 18, 2019
Join Zimleague Zimbabwe on Telegram Group no censorship no net blocking there https://t.co/dju4UDfp7U
— Zimleague Zimbabwe🇿🇼 (@zimleague) January 17, 2019
Zimbabweans have even gone ahead to form Telegram Supergroups, which can have as many as 10,000 members!
Join Gweru on Telegram group https://t.co/W6Aq3EHN8L
Join Zimbabwe on Telegram grouphttps://t.co/cKpDGEopzj
— 🆃🅴🅲🅷 🅷🆄🅱 263 (@techhub263) January 17, 2019
Telegram is able to do this because it has a trick up its sleeve: Domain fronting. This trick essentially “hosts a service on another company’s systems and effectively hides the traffic source” as explained by the Wired. They can make the requests look like they came from Google servers for example and if they want to block Telegram, they will have to block google.com. This trick has allowed Telegram to be accessible in its home country, Russia where there has been so many attempts to block it.
This is not the first time we have seen people turn to Telegram when WhatsApp is blocked in their country. In 2015, Telegram gained 1 million users in one day when WhatsApp was banned in Brazil.