North Korea’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications made the announcement banning Facebook, Twitter and other key sites.
The news was posted at Koryolink, the country’s main mobile service provider, and other internet providers. While very few North Koreans have access to the internet, foreigners were previously allowed to access the web with nearly no restrictions, according to the Associated Press.
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Pyongyang restricts access to social media sites
However these new restrictions will make it more difficult for foreigners to access the internet. It will also affect the ability of North Koreans to access information about their country published around the world.
According to the announcement the government is blocking YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America and South Korean media sites “for a certain period of time.” Other sites on the banned list include “sex and adult websites.”
Prior to the official announcement Facebook and Twitter had been informally blocked for months. Access was blocked on Friday after journalists attempted to connect on Friday from Pyongyang.
The government announcement also warned that those who try to access those sites in an “improper” way or propagate “anti-republic data” from them will be punished, although it did not specify what this punishment would be.
Censorship similar that imposed in China
North Korea is effectively implementing internet censorship similar to that enforced in China. While authorities in Beijing allow more access in general, there is a strict policy banning any material that the government considers to be politically sensitive or socially harmful.
South Korea also bans North Korean websites and adult content, despite having one of the highest rates of internet use in the world. In North Korea it is estimated that 2 million residents now have mobile phones. However internet access is restricted to officials, technicians and people who have registered to use it, generally under close supervision.
In 2013 it was announced that foreigners would be granted access to 3G internet on their smartphones, using a local SIM card to access the Koryolink network. As a result they were able to post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, providing a stream of information about the secretive country. Some even started streaming live video using apps like Periscope.
However authorities became concerned about information leaving the country, and started to worry that North Koreans might be accessing the web. Experiments in controlling access to the internet have been going on for some time.
In June 2015 some Instagram accounts started to receive warnings that access was denied for “harmful content.” Other sites were blocked, with users receiving messages which read “Warning! You can’t connect to this website because it’s in blacklist site.”
This time around Instagram has been left off the list of banned sites, and access is still possible.
North Korea declares state of “semi-war”
At the same time North Korea has declared that a state of “semi-war” now exists on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang announced that it would continue working on nuclear and ballistic missile programs in spite of international opposition.
So Se Pyong, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, also criticized the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises which are currently taking place. He said they are aimed at “decapitation of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)” and conquering Pyongyang.
“If the United States continues, then we have to make the counter-measures also. So we have to develop, and we have to make more deterrence, nuclear deterrence,” So, who is also North Korea’s envoy to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.