Uganda government introduces tax on social media users to curb 'gossip'

WION Web Team
Kampala, UgandaUpdated: Jul 02, 2018, 03:32 PM IST

File photo Photograph:(Others)

Uganda’s parliament has passed new laws that introduced a new tax for use of popular social media platforms which include WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts, Yahoo Messenger, Instagram, YouTube, Skype and others.

Ugandans will have to cough up 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) a day to use popular social media platforms.

The controversial tax was first introduced in April after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country since 1986, wrote a letter to the Treasury stating that social media encouraged gossip that was costing Uganda time and income.

Payment will be via the three telecom firms’ mobile money platforms. Customers will then be granted access to the platforms if they already have data on their devices.

Critics of the new tax say it will potentially hike the cost of data in a country where per capita income stands at about $600.

Data costs in Africa are already among the world’s highest, according to digital advocacy group World Wide Web Foundation.

Of Uganda’s 41 million people, 23.6 million are mobile phone subscribers and 17 million use the internet, according to state-run Uganda Communications Commission.

Opponents of the new tax also say it could also act as a curb on free speech in the country, but government officials say the levy is needed to generate revenues to fund the expansion of public services.

(With inputs from Reuters)