Gov’t restores Social Media as Facebook remains blocked

The government has maintained a shutdown on Facebook, despite opening all other social media platforms, a month after they were frozen. The government blocked Facebook after the microblogging site pulled down accounts of pro-National Resistance Movement users.

During the same time, the government blocked all other social media sites, among them, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and WhatsApp.  All Ugandans who wanted to connect to the networks connected to virtual protection networks, also known as VPN.  

Today, the State Minister for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Peter Ogwang announced that the blockage had been lifted. While he apologised for the blackout that Ugandans were subjected to, Ogwang cautioned against the destructive engagements on social media.

Although Facebook was accessible via broadband, and via VPN it was still shut down for mobile data users. Telecom companies are also sending messages to users indicating that Facebook had not been restored.  “Dear customer, Government, the government has permitted Social media except Facebook starting today. Enjoy unlimited in-home internet! thank you for your patience,” the message reads. 

Meanwhile, in a report released yesterday, Facebook indicated that it had pulled down 220 Facebook accounts, 32 Facebook pages, 59 groups, and 139 Instagram accounts in Uganda. These were all linked to the Government Citizen Interaction Centre at the Ministry of Information.

According to Facebook, the users duplicated accounts, used fake accounts support President Museveni, promoted General Muhoozi Kainerugaba as the next President of Uganda, and targeted the National Unity Platform (NUP) and its Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, among others. Facebook described this as a violation of their policy against government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behaviour on behalf of a government entity.

Several social media and internet users have however called on the government to refund their Over the Top Tax  (OTT) that some had for months and others days but was interfered by the shutdown. Others say that they will continue accessing social media via VPN since the government made them realize that they can do without payment of the tax.    

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