KAMPALA — Ugandan authorities have directed all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to temporarily block access all social media accounts including Facebook, Whats-app and Twitter among others on polling day to eliminate connecting and sharing information.
Other service to be disconnected include mobile money transactions and calls.
According to UG Standard, authorities stated that security agencies requested the block to minimize social media use in order to prevent violence on January 14.
“Mobile data services (Country wide)-Excluding NON-GSM, Mobile data service (Regional cluster) Excluding NON-GSM, Mobile data services (Country wide) including NON-GSM, and mobile data (Regional cluster) including NON-GSM” reads the directive.
Other services that have been listed are “Voice, SMS and Data (country wide and full network shutdown, Voice, SMS and Data (Network shutdown on Regional cluster). Data (country wide excluding dedicated APN, Data (Regional cluster excluding dedicated APN and finally MOMO services both country wide and regional cluster”.
In 2016, authorities also switched off social media —citing “national security’’ as the motivation behind restrictions.
The disruptions were ordered by Uganda’s security agencies and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), which regulates the telecommunications sector, online publications, broadcasting (both radio and television), film industry, postal and courier services.
The same day, President Museveni told journalists that he ordered the blocking of social media: “Steps must be taken for security to stop so many getting in trouble, it is temporary because some people use those pathways for telling lies,” he said.
These shutdowns interfere with the rights and daily lives of Ugandans who use the internet and social media platforms to access information, express views and conduct everyday business online.
During the weeks prior to the 2016 elections, Ugandans actively tweeted and debated about the elections using hashtags like #UgandaDecides and #UGDebate16.
Even with the social media bans in place, many Ugandans continued to post about the elections using Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. On election day, citizens were able to share updates on late arrivals of voting materials at various stations, reports of election malpractice, and provisional election results on social media.
Telecom companies were also ordered to switch off internet, mobile money and calls on voting day