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Twitter condemns Internet shutdown in Uganda

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President Yoweri Museveni has banned social media ahead of elections

KAMPALA —Tech giants Twitter has condemned Internet shutdown in Uganda ahead of election on Thursday, January 14, saying such shut downs are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and principles of Open Internet.

“Ahead of the Ugandan election, we’re hearing reports that Internet service providers are being ordered to block social media and messaging apps,” Twitter said.

“We strongly condemn internet shutdowns – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of the Open Internet.”

“Access to information and freedom of expression, including the public conversation on Twitter, is never more important than during democratic processes, particularly elections”.

Twitter last week purged several malicious accounts linked to President Yoweri Museveni.

Twitter said in a blog post that it removed the accounts “to protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome.”

It also explained that the targeted accounts were being used to manipulate public opinion and spread harmful propaganda ahead of this week’s presidential election.

“Earlier this week, in close coordination with our peers, we suspended a number of accounts targeting the election in Uganda”, Twitter said in a blog post.

The history of internet shutdown in Uganda is not new. It dates back as early as 2006 and continues after. On April 14, 2011, UCC instructed ISPs to temporarily block access to Facebook and Twitter for 24 hours to eliminate connecting and sharing of information. The order came in the heat of opposition-led “walk to work” protests over rising fuel and food prices. The reason given by the regulating committee was to prevent violence.

In the 2016 general elections, social media platforms were shut down twice by the Ugandan authorities. The first shutdown happened on February 18, 2016, on the eve of the presidential election. The restrictions lasted for four full days.

Another shutdown happened on May 11, 2016, where social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and mobile money transfer services were once again blocked.

President Museveni in 2016 reportedly told journalists he ordered the social media blocking so that “steps must be taken for security to stop so many getting into trouble, its temporary because some people use those pathways for telling lies”.

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