Week in Review: June 1, 2018

by Dan Bateyko

Uganda passes bill to tax social media users

Uganda’s parliament passed a new Excise Duty Bill which imposes a 200 shilling ($.05) daily tax on people who use social media platforms, contending that the levy will help curtail gossip, reports the BBC . The bill is set to come into effect July 1, but according to the article, it is unclear how Ugandan authorities will determine if citizens are accessing social media services.

The Verge reports that the bill will affect the 41% of Uganda who use the Internet. For more information on Internet usage and mobile connections in Uganda, see this Internet Monitor dashboard .

Kenyan court blocks cybercrime law’s ban on fake news

The Bloggers Association of Kenya and the Kenya Union of Journalists successfully petitioned a court to block rules in the recently signed Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act that were said to curtail free expression, reports Reuters . Pending a ruling later this summer, the judge listed 26 sections which penalize false news that would also affect fundamental rights and freedoms. More information on the petition can be found at the Bloggers Association of Kenya’s page here .

Papua New Guinea considers a banning Facebook for a month

Papua New Guinea’s government put forth a proposal to ban Facebook for a month in an effort to research the effects of fake news, reports The Guardian . Sam Basil, the communications minister, cites concerns over user privacy and data collection coming from the Cambridge Analytica leak as an impetus for the ban.

In a NiemanLab post, Shan Wang contextualizes Facebook’s ventures in Papua New Guinea:

“Papua New Guinea was one of the few dozen countries in the world that arrived at Facebook largely through the social media company’s controversial Free Basics program, which the Outline recently reported has quietly been phased out there. Internet penetration there is estimated to be just over 10 percent of the total population (though this video about social media use from one of Papua New Guinea’s commercial TV channels claims the country has “two million people with Facebook accounts”).”

The proposal has faced its share of critics. In a Wired article, staff writer Louise Matsakis points out that blocking Facebook is not necessary for research and cites Papua New Guinean citizens and observers concerns that “Papua New Guinea is merely borrowing problems cited by other countries, like fraudulent profiles and fake news, to try to block speech.” In Papua New Guinea, one MP referred to another minister as “dumb” in a Facebook post criticizing the ban; that MP has been referred to a privileges committee, which caused opposition members to walk out of parliament earlier this week.