Uganda to rethink social media tax after backlash

Uganda is reviewing its decision to impose taxes on the use of social media and on money transactions by mobile phone, following a public backlash. The tax means Ugandans will now have to pay 200 Ugandan shillings ($0.05) a day to use popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp.

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made the announcement soon after police broke up a protest against the taxes. President Yoweri Museveni had pushed for the taxes to boost government revenue and to end “gossip” on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Critics accused the 75-year-old of trying to stifle dissenting voices.

The social media tax targets the use of what are described as Over The Top (OTT) services, which offer “voice and messaging over the internet”, according to a previous statement by telecom companies.

Users are asked to make an electronic payment before they can access the sites.

This comes after a Uganda tech company filed a lawsuit against the government over a new social media tax, which went into effect Sunday.

In the lawsuit, Uganda’s government is accused of breaching the principles of Net neutrality and the petitioners want Uganda’s Constitutional court to overturn the government’s decision to charge the unpopular tax and “declare it as illegal, null and void.”

It is unclear how much revenue the government had hoped to raise through the taxes.

Some have used Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to get around paying.

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