And finally… social media tax sparks internet exodus



Millions of people in Uganda are boycotting the internet after a new social media tax was imposed in the African nation.

The punitive tax, which was introduced in July, costs social media users 200 Ugandan shillings (4p) a day.

Originally touted as a means to raise revenue for the public purse, Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, has since said the tax was introduced to curb “gossip” on websites that he labelled “over the top”.

Museveni - who has ruled Uganda for the last 32 years - ordered all social media sites to be shut down in 2016 during elections to stop the spread of “misleading information” and critics of the subsequent tax say it is a further attempt to restrict free speech and the ability to criticise the government.

The levy affects 60 websites including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter and has already seen at least 2.5million people shun internet subscriptions.

When the tax was first introduced last year protesters took to the streets to demonstrate and some activists even sued the government for restricting their rights to free speech and access to information.

And now there are worries that it is having a damaging impact on the countries economy.

A lack of formal banking services in Uganda also means many people rely on mobile phone companies to send money by text message.

“The tax has not generated the revenue the government anticipated,” said Irene Ikomu, a lawyer based in the capital, Kampala. Technology and financial sectors have instead been hit, she said.

The number of people paying the tax for sites listed as “Over the Top ” (OTT) – chosen by the government because they offer voice and messaging services – fell by 1.2 million.

The value of mobile money transactions also fell by almost a quarter, to 14.8tn Ugandan shillings (£3.4bn) between June and September.