Uganda has revealed its intentions to impose a tax on social media users starting July. Although the lawmakers say it’s a way to generate revenue, activists have stormed the social media to denounce such imposition, claiming it’s another attempt by President Yoweri Museveni to limit freedom of speech and thus overrule his 32-year-old rule, Reuters reported.
Uganda has a population of about 41 million, 23.6 million use mobile phones, and 17 million are internet subscribers. Unlike some other western countries, data costs in many parts of Africa are outrageous. In fact, according to statistics by the digital advocacy group World Wide Web Foundation, internet costs are among the world’s highest.
The Finance Minister, in a telephone interview with Reuters, says that users of platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook would be taxed 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.027) daily. When asked about the effect on stifling people’s use of the internet, he declined to give a response. He said:
“We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you can enjoy more of social media, more often, more frequently.”
Human rights activists have taken to social media to criticise the move as it won’t be the first that such a situation is taking place. In 2016, during the last general election, the government blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp to stifle grassroots movements against them. Rosebell Kagumire, a human rights activist and blogger, argues that “it’s part of a wider attempt to curtail freedoms of expression.”
The social media has a significant effect on politics globally, and countries like China and Tanzania censor the internet use to tight regulation over the online news.
In China today, applications like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Skype are blacklisted. New rules also require that online reports must be approved by the central government before they are posted online. In Tanzania, a new law requires any blogger or website owner to pay an annual fee of 1 million Tanzanian shillings ($440) before they can legally operate in the country.
Facebook Inc. CEO said yesterday during his drilling that his services have to free because not many people can afford it globally if they are to pay and thereby to make it inaccessible to many. We know that this is a statement of fact as many people love to get things for free. It’s only apparent that the Ugandan president is seeking means to control the internet.