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Uganda passes tax law on social media users to curb ‘gossiping’ online

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CHOGM London 2018 - Day 5 Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Uganda’s parliament has passed a law to tax those who use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Viber, and WhatsApp, as reported by BBC. The controversial tax was first introduced in April after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, wrote a letter to the treasury stating that social media encouraged gossip that was costing Uganda time and income.

The tax will come into effect on June 1st, imposing a 200 shilling ($0.05) levy per day on those who use social media platforms, but it’s unclear how it will be enforced. About 17 million people, or 41 percent of Uganda’s total population, use the internet, and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive plan on monitoring how and when social media sites are accessed. According to the BBC, at least one ISP has doubts about the law’s enforcement.

Uganda’s finance minister, Matia Kasaija, justified the law to Reuters in April, saying, ”We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more social media, more often, more frequently.”

Those who are in opposition to the law say it infringes on freedom of expression and is a way for Museveni to stifle opposition to his presidency. In 2016, access to social media platforms was shut down in Uganda during presidential elections. At the time, Museveni said the decision was made to “stop spreading lies.”