Many Ugandans are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass a new social media tax that came into force on Sunday.
The new law imposes a 200 shilling [$0.05, £0.04] daily levy on people using internet messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Viber.
President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the changes, arguing that social media encouraged gossip. Critics say the law curtails freedom of expression.
A VPN gets around government censorship by redirecting your internet activity to a computer in a different country.
Now the head of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said VPNs will be blocked, provoking plenty of responses online:
It’s not the first time the government has cracked down on social media users.
In 2016, social media platforms were blocked in Uganda on election day to stop people “telling lies”, President Museveni said.
Three mobile network providers in Uganda have issued a joint statement to help their customers comply with a law taxing social media use, which comes into effect on 1 July.
Airtel, MTN and Africell have provided a daily, weekly and monthly pay structure and a guide on how to make payments.
MPs passed a law to impose the controversial tax in May after President Yoweri Museveni said social media encouraged gossip.
People using internet messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter will have to pay a daily levy of 200 shilling ($0.05, £0.04).
Here is the full statement from the three mobile phone companies:
Source: Morning Call
Ugandans who use the internet messaging service WhatsApp will be charged a daily tax of 200 shillings ($0.05; £0.04) after parliament approved a controversial new law on Wednesday.
It comes into force on 1 July, and will also apply to other social media apps like Facebook.
Mobile money transactions will also be taxed, with a 1% levy on the total value of each transaction.
President Yoweri Museveni was quoted in Ugandan media last month as saying social media platforms are used “mainly for gossip”.
Human rights activists disagree. “It’s part of a wider attempt to curtail freedoms of expression,” blogger Rosebell Kagumire told Reuters.
At least three MPs have criticised the new rules as “double taxation”, according to the privately-owned Daily Monitor newspaper.
Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyaggulanyi, aka Bobi Wine – as well as Joshua Anywarach and Silas Aogon – said that because users access WhatsApp through taxed airtime, an additional tax would infringe their rights.
Another MP, Patrick Nsamba of the ruling party, said the tax will hurt the poorest most:
It is very easy for an MP to say that 1% is little money, but to people who earn less than a dollar a day, it is going to break their backs.”