Uganda Government lifts Social Media Ban but at a cost of future bans

Uganda Government has today lifted the social media ban in the country as a result of pressure mounting from online business operators seeking new solutions to reach their online customer base. Announced through a tweet by the state minister of ICT Peter Ogwang, social media access has been resumed for all internet users marking the full internet restoration of Internet services.

The Social Media Ban was effected on 13th January 2021 at 18:50 before the presidential and parliamentary general elections as a method to control the spread of election news that would have attracted action among change seeking citizens. According to Ogwang, the ban was effected on security grounds since users often spread destructive information on the platform.

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Affected platforms include Twitter, Youtube, Github, Google Playstore, Apple store, Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp, among other over the top services (OTT) that already require a mandatory tax to be cleared before access is granted. However, Facebook remains banned in Uganda due to its previous deletion of Government accounts that violated its community standards.

During the ban, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have acted as main Internet gateways, and many users are showing no signs of retracting from these free to use applications.

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Currently, all mobile telecommunication operators including MTN Uganda, Airtel, Africell, Smile, Lyca Mobile, have kept zero official communications on their social media channels in compliance with the ban. But since Government has finally lifted the ban, all telcos are expected to comply and unblock social media access in Uganda, but with a catch of social media tax (OTT tax).

Why you should expect future social media Bans in Uganda

In Uganda, Internet shutdowns are now normal with the rising political tensions in the country. In 2016, the social media ban was effected together with a ban on mobile money to control online political pressure. In 2021, a full internet shutdown was effected in order to control the flow of information, and later, a social media ban effected as a catch for switching on the internet.

Now, according to the state minister for ICT Peter Ogwang, the social media ban was a result of national security concerns, and what this means, we should expect to see more of these bans whenever the political pressure rises in Uganda, and when it progresses to riots, a full internet shutdown may also follow suit to combat information flow.

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Henceforth, now that social media is back in Uganda, it should no longer be a surprise when future bans rise. However, the more social media bans are effected in the country, the more OTT tax becomes useless and VPNs continue to grow in popularity as the ultimate routes to bypass the tax.

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