The use of social media by governments worldwide to manipulate elections and silence dissidence is on the rise. Various governments also use social media to spy on citizens and according to statistics, global media freedoms have been on a downward trend. 

False news and information that is spread deliberately have been a major source of recent debate. For instance, false information was used to distort elections in more than 20 countries elections held between 2018 to 2020. 

While sensorship and complete internet shutdowns were the key weapons, this era of false information has brought with it a new headache- identifying the real from the false data sometimes, in very short periods.

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Which Countries Have Banned TikTok
Many individuals who want to distort information to their advantage find it easier and more effective to spread propaganda and smear and social media is just the right tool for that. With the correct knowledge and footprint in social media, content can reach millions of people in seconds, a power which when used incorrectly, can have devastating effects.

Online Surveillance

Monitoring of dissenting voices has long been done by authoritarian governments all over the world and programs that aid social media surveillance are on the rise. Online meetings have replaced political rallies and so have the efforts towards online surveillance. 

The freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, curtailed when surveillance and crackdowns become the order of the day. Just to portray how much widespread online censorship is, of some 65 countries involved in the study, 47 had instances of arrests and harassment owing to political or religious speeches online. 

Iceland was ranked as the global leader in protecting internet freedom, having had no incidences of police action for online expression. China was unsurprising and ranked the worst performer. Interestingly, in Iceland, internet connectivity is universal and there are strong protections for online rights with little to no restrictions online, a far cry from China. 

The Asian giant is infamous for some of the most restrictive internet controls with punitive jail terms for people perceived to have made dissenting remarks.

While some countries like North Korea exercise extreme internet controls, social media has long been the subject of blanket bans by governments perceived to be democratic worldwide. Here, we take a look at what has been banned where and why.

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Facebook has been banned in several countries including China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. The social media giant accepts all kinds of content, most of which can be used to effectively spread awareness or mobilize for a cause. With people posting publicly and content available to everyone, it is no wonder these governments banned access to Facebook by its citizens. 

It is said that information is power and without it, people are just unshackled, prisoners. Lack of awareness of basic rights, as well as ignorance of geopolitics, have led to the pacification of the masses. Protests in these countries are nonexistent.


Twitter has long remained a fan favorite and for many reasons. Its short punch style method of delivery has made it a popular social media tool for leaders and celebrities worldwide. Its the President of the United States favorite messaging platform. Despite its massive popularity, Twitter is banned in several countries that have been known to crack down on Western social media apps. 

The governments of China, Iran, and North Korea have all blocked Twitter in their respective countries. China has its equivalent, Weibo, which the citizens are even encouraged to join by the government. The biggest social media in China, Weibo has very heavy government monitoring and any voices of descent are immediately silenced.


Instagram, whose parent company is Facebook is automatically barred where the social media giant is. The popular app which has become a leading force lately has been barred in China, North Korea, and Iran. 

Surprisingly, the Iranian leader had an Instagram account with over two million followers before his country decided to ban the popular picture-sharing platform. China discontinued Instagram services back in 2014 owing to a growing political voice in the platform.


This social media application has taken the world by storm with its almost professional video editing features. Its ability to create and share videos on the go has made the app a must-have for social media users. TikTok is the trending social media app now and it has become a hit in every country, well, almost every country. 

There are some countries where this popular app was completely banned. For instance, TikTok was banned in Indonesia after the government there accused it of advancing inappropriate content and p0rnography in the mostly conservative nation but the ban was lifted 8 days after the apps management promised to do something about it. 

The app was also banned in India by the Madras HighCourt under the guise that is was encouraging pornography and displaying inappropriate content. The Indian court also flawed the TikTok children's privacy laws alluding that they were lax enough for online predators to exploit. 

The app was pulled down from the stores in India but after intense lobbying by the apps management and pulling down millions of videos, the court gave the reprieve and the ban was lifted. The app is said to have cost the company at least 15 million new users but since the ban was lifted, the user numbers have continually gone up with an estimated 120 million users currently.

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Social media freedom and freedom of expression are as important as the freedom of speech. Suppressing these fundamental human freedoms come first in the form of manipulating what the populace reads or hears and controlling their opinions in such a way as to promote your agenda. 

There are numerous countries not mentioned here that exercise limited online media control when they need to further their causes and the relevant global bodies like Transparency International need to do more to curb this vice.