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Uganda are introducing a social media tax

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Yoweri Musevini has been Uganda’s President since 1986 and, due to fears of ‘online gossip’ he’s going to impose a tax of Ugandan’s usage of social media.

It will cost users 200 Ugandan Shillings, the equivalent of around four pence, to access sites like Twitter and Instagram. The government hope to make 400bn Ugandan shillings annually from the new tax.

Image result for social mediaCritics have argued that the new tax limits free speech but Uganda is not the first African nation to impose such a tax. Tanzania, for example, introduced a law requiring bloggers and Youtubers to sign up for a government register. Registering costs around £600.

The interesting thing about this tax is that it can be seen in one of two ways: the first conception is that it’s an attack on free speech. The intention of the tax certainly seems to be minimising the ease with which anti-government sentiment can spread.

The alternative way of looking at it though, is more positive. “When it comes to taming the internet, African countries like Tanzania and Uganda are well ahead of the curve”, said John Sparks, Sky’s Africa correspondent, before rightly going on to deride the motivations behind these new measures. Could there not be a more positive side to governmental limitations on social media usage though? More and more research emerges monthly on the potentially addictive and harmful effects of the internet and social media, yet it remains largely un-touched by regulation.

The Journal of Computers and Human Behaviour recently conducted a study indicating that people using multiple social media platforms were more than three times as likely to have high levels of general anxiety symptoms that those using few, or no, social media platforms. If social media has the potential to be so damaging, an emerging precedent of limiting it might be no bad thing. Limiting free speech in developing nations certainly is though.

While the motivations of these African internet taxes seem highly questionable (the expensive Tanzanian demands on bloggers particularly,) might some sort of government intervention one day seem necessary in the UK? Watch this space. 

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