The users of all kind of social media platforms including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Viber, Skype, etc. in Uganda will require to pay “social media tax” from July, as per the new law passed by Uganda Parliament to help the country “cope with consequences of gossiping”.
On Wednesday, Uganda’s parliament passed Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, imposing a tax of 200 shillings (five cents) a day on users of all “over-the-top” services which publish content bypassing traditional distributors. Which means, a daily charge of 5 cents will be applied as tax on users of social media and messaging services like Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter in Uganda. Known as “social media tax”, the concept was continuously been pushed by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni since March when he wrote to the country’s finance minister that the revenue generated can help the country “cope with consequences of olugambo [gossiping].”
On the other hand, Finance minister David Bahati said that the purpose of the legislation being passed was only to raise revenue for public services. The money collected from this taxation legislation can also be used by the government to pay off its rowing national debts, while it will also help the country from spreading “online gossips”. As per the legislation, the law will come into effect from July 1, 2018 – however, it is unclear of how the government will implement it when the government is still struggling to ensure all mobile phone SIM cards are properly registered.
Besides the social media tax, the new Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill also includes few other taxes like – a 1% levy on the total value of mobile money transactions – which civil society groups complain will affect poorer Ugandans who rarely use banking services. The entire bill is still facing controversies whether it is meant for a good purpose, or will it compromise citizen’s freedom to speech and right to information – especially when these platforms are core of political and social information delivery to common people.