Facebook to remain shut as govt talks with tech giant stall

Ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) supporters and officials said blocking of their Facebook accounts was orchestrated by foreigners. PHOTO/NET.

What you need to know:

  • Mr Meddy Kaggwa, the acting director for Industry and Content Development at UCC, told the Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights yesterday that talks between the social media giant and Uganda haven’t yielded any tangible results.

The government will continue to block access to Facebook, a social media platform, in Uganda after its talks with the tech giant failed to yield results, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) officials said yesterday.

Mr Meddy Kaggwa, the acting director for Industry and Content Development at UCC, told the Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights yesterday that talks between the social media giant and Uganda haven’t yielded any tangible results.

“There are ongoing discussions between Facebook and the government of Uganda to ensure that they commit to complying with the requirements of the government of Uganda for the safety of all of us,” Mr Kaggwa said. “Once discussions are completed, I believe the government will update us on the decisions taken.”

The Uganda government blocked Facebook after the social media giant 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 of Facebook, but without tangible results. Facebook refused to comply with the government demands to restore deleted accounts.

Millions of Ugandans using Facebook were affected and now they have to use virtual private network (VPN) applications to be able to access it.
Mr Kaggwa said the negotiations with Facebook need to be handled on a continental level.

“Many of us have recommended that we have to approach them (Facebook) as a continent. …When we speak to Facebook as Africa, Facebook will be keener to listen,” he said.

In this financial year, the government introduced taxes on social media platforms. Several Members of Parliament wondered how government would be able to tax a social media platform that it banned in the country.

Mr Kaggwa said currently, they don’t know how much money Facebook makes from Uganda and the social media giant isn’t willing to reveal details.
“In fact, when you tell them to explain the aggregate revenue they earn from Uganda as a country, they will tell you it is negligible,” he said.

The Electronic Trade Start-up Association of Uganda through KTA advocates asked the Parliament to compel the government to unblock Facebook.

“We have been very vocal on the ban on Facebook and I hope you can lend your voice to the efforts to try and unblock Facebook because many businesses that operate on line as a means to advertise and sell their products,” Mr Kenneth Muhangi of KTA advocates said.

Background
Prior to its suspension by government about a year ago, Facebook was the most used social media platform in Uganda. Since then, many users have since quit or use Virtual Private Networks to access the platform.

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