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Instead, the government changed tack in its approach to taxation.
Rather than taxing the profitable foreign-based social media platforms or even local digital media publishers, a decision was made to tax individual users.
Thus, understanding the impacts of this policy on media development in Uganda serves to highlight the consequences and costs of efforts to regulate the internet in this way. The group also publishes the only regional newspapers and owns six radio stations and three television channels.
It nonetheless faces competition from privately owned entities including the and NTV of the Nation Media Group, NBS of the Next Media Group, and hundreds of FM radio stations around the country.
In Uganda, almost a year after this first-of-its-kind social media tax was implemented, we are beginning to finally see what the actual consequences of such a policy are.
Since 2013, the government has spoken of introducing a social media monitoring center “to weed out those who use it to damage the government and people’s reputations.” The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the government regulatory body of the communications sector, first called for regulation of social media platforms in 2016 with the executive director of the authority stating that “self-regulation is not sufficient and additional regulatory tools such as public supervision, legislations or even administrative measures are required.” Two years later, in July 2018, the UCC published a notice calling for online content providers including online publishers, news platforms, and radio and television operators to “apply and obtain authorization” for the provision of these services—potentially threatening access to information and free speech.The Ugandan case is just the latest example of how governments are trying to assert more influence over social media platforms and the circulation of news.Indeed, right now a handful of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are also considering enacting similar social media taxes on their citizens.In July 2018, the government of Uganda implemented a tax on individual users of social media platforms.
In the first three months following the introduction of the tax in the country, internet penetration dropped from 47 percent to 35 percent.Five years later, the election in 2016 revealed that the state was willing to go even further in terms of curtailing access to content online.