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F/BOOK WAR ON NRM PUSHED US TO BLOCK SOCIAL MEDIA-M7

By Mulengera Reporters

 President Museveni says he directed UCC to shut down all manner of social media in order to protest attempts by Facebook and other tech giants to detrimentally interfere with Uganda’s politics and more so the Thursday 11th January 2021 elections. Gen Museveni says he was provoked by the decision by the California-based big tech company to lock out social media users who were posting content capable of promoting his ruling NRM party agenda.

To him, the taking down of accounts and pages used by the ruling party loyalists is proof that the social media giant has chosen to participate in the Ugandan internal political contests against the mighty NRM party and this makes him justified to fight back by ensuring no one else ever gets to pay for and consume their services inside the boundaries of Uganda. “The other day, Facebook decided to block NRM message senders. Why would anybody do that? If they don’t cooperate, they will not operate here. I’m sure government has already closed social media,” he said. But Facebook says the affected social media users had engaged in inappropriate conduct contrary to company policy and standards aimed at promoting public safety and responsible use.

“There is no way anybody can come and play around with our country to decide for us who is good and bad. That social channel [FB], if it’s to operate in Uganda, should be used equitably. If you take sides against NRM, then you will not operate here. Uganda is ours.” Museveni added: “I’m very sorry for the inconvenience to those who have been using this channel [Facebook] but we can’t tolerate this arrogance of anybody coming to decide for us who is good and who is bad.” Museveni admitted being one of the social media users currently being negatively affected by the UCC regulatory decision shutting down the same.

BROADER CONTEXT

But, being Mulengera News, let’s also reflect on this Museveni-Facebook war in the broader scheme of things. What does the UCC blockade mean for Facebook as a big tech company? What exactly do they lose assuming Gen Museveni were to stick to his guns and permanently keep them away? Is Uganda one of those profitable economies or markets where they make real big money? Our information, regrettably, is that Uganda so small an economy (when compared to giants like India, Nigeria or even Ethiopia) they can comfortably pack up and let go. In fact, our research shows that Museveni’s Uganda isn’t one of the profitable markets for Facebook over which company executives in California would lose sleep simply because one strong man has decreed no access to their services.

Available information shows the company isn’t even breaking even because Uganda is so insignificant a market to mean anything to their broader calculus as a business. Not even the latest provocation by Gen Museveni can make them feel justified to fight back because such would be such a small fight for them. The best they can do, stung with unpredictability of this small market called Uganda, is to switch off our country as a geographical area and disable all access to their network and totally turn their back on Uganda while taking their access platform away from our airspace. “The resources they invest here to enable access to their services isn’t currently being recouped and Uganda isn’t one of those markets where they are making the super normal profits over which they can cry simply because the President has kicked them out,” says a corporate Ugandan deeply knowledgeable about operations of such big tech companies.

The Ugandan corporate adds that in the long term, their departure (assuming Gen Museveni reopened and unsuccessfully called them back) would hurt the Ugandan government more than the Facebook executives back home in Menlo Park California. Being a country with no access to Facebook services would naturally shrink Uganda’s attractiveness both as a tourist and investment destination. It would imply an operating environment or atmosphere that is uncertain and naturally unattractive. Just imagine a tourist having to travel for vacation in a country which has no social media access simply because the big tech companies disabled access to their networks and exited! Departure of such companies could even instigate others to feel justified to pack up and leave.

Yet more seriously, absence of access to platforms like Facebook hurts Ugandas’ economic lives more significantly than it even does to mobilizers of political activities like Bobi Wine who clearly is the immediate target of the Gen Museveni-instigated blockade by UCC.  Shutting down Facebook means thousands of hitherto jobless young graduates instantly becoming unemployed and these indeed were immediately pushed back to unemployment the moment telecom companies started implementing UCC ED Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo’s directive asking them to constrain access on Tuesday. Being out of business for no fault of their own only mobilizes such potentially apolitical young people into becoming even angrier and disgruntled political agitators towards the incumbent YKT Museveni. Not forgetting the tax revenue the GoU itself loses in the OTT collections that get deprived as a result of the social media shut down.

Social service-wise, when you shut down social media you inadvertently deprive many Ugandans of access to for instance health information they badly require to make prudent maternal health-related decisions. And from the security/intelligence perspective, more detrimentally, you complicate intelligence security operations and projections by inadvertently pushing many would-be overt political activists and politically agitated young people underground (back to the Radio Katwe days).

When they freely exchange information, using the social media space, you as government or security get to know what they are planning or even thinking and plot appropriate counter moves to nip the resultant mischief in the bud. You deprive yourself of certain intelligence- gathering capabilities when you shut down these social media platforms. What subsequently happens is for you, as government, to only be taken by surprise in case something just implodes unexpectedly. It’s more costly putting down such political insurrection as opposed to the one you had the privilege to anticipate and see coming.  (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

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