On 14 June 2017, South African mobile operator, MTN announced that their free Twitter service will be limited to 100MB per subscriber per day. The news was not well received by users and sparked a public campaign against telecommunication companies to reduce the cost of data.
Due to abuse, we've had to cap our free Twitter service to 100MB per day. Normal data charges will apply thereafter: https://t.co/ZzTwhXMpMv
— MTN South Africa (@MTNza) June 14, 2017
As a result, the #DataMustFall trend, first made popular by Tbo Touch in September 2016, started to increase.
Despite being announced on 14 June, the public only started noticing the changes in the following couple of days.
Although triggered by MTN, other network giants have been involved in #DataMustFall mentions. In June, MTN was the most mentioned telco in #DataMustFall conversation and was found in 14% of mentions, followed by Vodacom with 11% and Cell C and Telkom accounting for 6% each.
Not only was #DataMustFall being used, but #SocialMediaBlackout was introduced in retaliation. The hashtag was reportedly introduced by activist Ntsiki Mazwai on 19 June and encouraged the public to not use social media on Wednesday, 21 June 2017 in an effort to get the attention of mobile operators and reduce data tariffs.
— #Abanandaba (@ntsikimazwai) June 22, 2017
Despite intentions, ironically, the hashtag was trending again yesterday and was the second most used hashtag on Twitter over the 24-hour period.
The hashtag was most used on 20 June totalling 27 635 online mentions and accounted for 56% of all #SocialMediaBlackout posts. The hashtag received 18 989 mentions on 21 June – 31% fewer mentions than the day before.
#SocialMediaBlackout was a trending topic and was the second most used hashtag during the tracking period and accounted for 2% of total tweets and retweets in South Africa on 21 June 2017.
Although the main hashtag was #SocialMediaBlackout, #DataMustFall and #SocialMediaShutdown were also used.
— Telkom (@TelkomZA) June 21, 2017
— Karabo Motswadi (@KMotswadi) June 21, 2017
— Garth Breytenbach (@GBreyts) June 21, 2017
I'm here on #SocialMediaShutdown protest to keep law and order. We don't want damage to tweets and vandalism in mentions. Watching the TL
— RSA Police Minister (@MbalulaFikile) June 21, 2017
It is doubtful that the #SocialMediaBlackout had any impact, but the latest Twitter user statistics suggest that the drive was a fail.
Find out how many people were on social media and did not participate in the data fight here.
- MTN Stops Free Unlimited Twitter Service Due to “Abuse” – Tech Financials
- #DataMustFall: Ntsiki Mazwai Calls On SA to Participate in Social Media Blackout – Eye Witness News
- South Africans urged to join #SocialMediaBlackout – IOL
- The irony of #SocialMediaBlackout – IOL
- Ntsiki Mazwai Lambastes Local Celebs for Not Joining Data Fight – Times Live