In news that is not April 1-related, North Korea has this week begun to block access to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other websites in the country.
The AP, which has a bureau in North Korean capital Pyongyang, reports that the government named YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America, a number of South Korean websites, porn and gambling websites on a list of Internet sites that will be blocked “for a certain period of time.” The announcement reportedly added that anyone trying to access the sites in an “improper” way or distribute “anti-republic data” would be punished, although it did not specify how.
North Korea is hardly a place for mainstream Internet access — the country has a reported 2 million mobile phone users but Internet access is reserved for government officials or other high-level positions — but this is a further step to shut the country off and restrict access to information.
North Korea’s sole mobile operator, Koryolink, enabled mobile internet access for visitors in 2013 and — bar some apparent shutdowns and the occasional issue with Instagram — that has helped bring images and information from the world’s most isolated country to wider audiences.
That move was seen as a potential step to opening North Korea up and perhaps even enabling increased Internet access among natives, but blocking off these websites runs counter to that. Instagram, which includes a number of accounts that share fascinating images from North Korea, remains accessible for now.
We’ve contacted Twitter, Facebook and Google for confirmation and comment.