Govt ready to reopen Facebook, says UCC

Government blocked a number of social media sites including Facebook, WhatApp and Twitter, among others ahead of the 2021 general elections. Facebook remains blocked to date. Photo / File   

What you need to know:

  • Facebook has remained blocked for almost two years now. It was blocked during the 2021 general elections 

Uganda communications Commission (UCC) has said government is waiting on Facebook to resolve outstanding issues before it is fully reopened. 

Facebook remains blocked from Uganda two years after its operations were suspended ahead of the 2021 elections. 

However, Ms Irene Kagwa, the UCC acting executive director, told Monitor yesterday that reopening Facebook, which is now operated by Meta, was in the tech giant’s hands having concluded discussions on a number of existing issues. 

“On our side, we are waiting for Facebook. We talked [and] we concluded. So, the outstanding issues are on their side. As government, we are ready to have it come back as soon as they deliver on their promise,” she said.

Asked about the timelines within which Facebook is expected to implement the outstanding issues, Ms Kagwa said government had hoped that they would have been implemented by now but there has been delays on the side of Facebook. 

“We don’t know what has delayed them. We had hoped that they would be implemented by now so that we can reopen. We are waiting to hear from them,” she said, declining a request to discuss some of the outstanding issues that government and Facebook had agreed on for onward implementation. 

“You know I cannot go into the details yet. No, not yet. The reopening should have already happened but I suspect other engagements [in other countries] may have distracted Facebook and caused some delays. So, we are hoping they will be able to get to us as soon as possible,” Ms Kagwa said. 

It was not immediately clear why Facebook had delayed to implement the outstanding issues. Efforts to get a comment from Facebook were futile by press time. 

In August, UCC told a Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights that government continued to maintain a blockade on Facebook after talks with the tech giant had failed to yield results. 

“There are ongoing discussions between Facebook and government to ensure that they commit to complying with requirements of government for the safety of all of us. Once discussions are completed, I believe government will update us,” Mr Meddy Kaggwa, the UCC acting director for Industry and Content Development, told Parliament in August. 

A number of Ugandans now access Facebook, one of the most used social media platform in Uganda, through Virtual Private Networks while others have had to quit for other available alternative. 

Before, the January 2021 suspension, government had had run ins with Facebook, accusing the social media giant of doing so little to control hate speech, lies and dividing Ugandans on partisan lines. 

Government subsequently blocked Facebook after it deleted hundreds of accounts of National Resistance Movement supporters it suspected to be fake during the General Election last year.

There have been several attempts to negotiate the unblocking, but without tangible results with Facebook refusing to comply with governments demands to restore deleted accounts.

Uganda Communications Commission says government is waiting for Facebook to implement agreed upon outstanding issues before it can fully be unblocked. 

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