NAIROBI, Kenya – Ugandan President blocked Facebook from operating in his country, just days after the social media company removed fake accounts related to his government ahead of the general election fierce place on Thursday.
In a televised speech on Tuesday night, President Yoweri Museveni accused Facebook of “arrogance” and said he had instructed his government to shut down the platform, along with the media. other social media.
“The social channel you’re talking about, if it’s going to work in Uganda, it should be used fairly by everyone who has to use it,” Museveni said. “We cannot tolerate this arrogance of anyone who comes to decide for us who is good and who is bad,” he added.
According to officials, the ban on Facebook was put in place at the end of the election period due to a crackdown on political opposition, harassment of journalists and nationwide protests that resulted in at least 54 deaths and hundred arrests.
Mr. Museveni, 76, who is running for a sixth term, is facing 10 opponents, including rapper Bobi Wine, 38-year-old legislator. Mr. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was beaten, pepper sprayed and charged in court on charges of violating coronavirus rules while on campaign.
Last week, Mr. Wine filed a petition with the International Criminal Court accusing Mr. Museveni and current and former top security officials sanctioning a wave of violence and human rights violations against citizens. political character and human rights lawyer.
This week, Facebook announced that it had removed a network of accounts and pages in the East African country from engaging in what it called “unauthentic coordination” to manipulate public debates. testimony around the election. The company said the network was linked to the Government Citizen Interaction Center, an initiative under Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communications and National Guidelines.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the network “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share post in groups to make them appear more often than usual ”.
Facebook’s investigation of the network began after research from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory found a network of social media accounts engaged in the campaign to criticize. opposition and boosting Mr. Museveni and the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement. After the study was published, Twitter also said it had closed the accounts related to the election.
Hours before Mr. Museveni’s speech, social media users across Uganda confirmed restrictions to their online communications, with digital rights group NetBlocks reporting that platforms include Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter have been affected.
Uganda blocked the Internet in the 2016 election, and in 2018, it imposed a social media tax aimed at increasing revenue and limiting what the government calls online “gossip.” The move, criticized as a threat to freedom of expression, has had a negative impact on internet use, with millions of Ugandans giving up internet service altogether.
In anticipation of another shutdown this week, a group of organizations working to end Internet disruption around the world sent a letter to Museveni and company leaders. Telecommunications in Uganda begged them to keep the internet and social media platforms accessible during the election.
Mr. Museveni did not heed their call. On Tuesday night, he said the decision to block Facebook was “regrettable” but “inevitable”.
“I’m very sorry about this inconvenience,” he said, adding that he himself used the platform to interact with young voters. He has almost one million followers on Facebook and two million people on Twitter.
Emphasizing a challenging note, Mr. Museveni said that if Facebook would “side”, it would not be allowed to operate in the country.
“Uganda is ours,” he said.