Uganda Blocks Facebook Ahead of Contentious Election

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NAIROBI, Kenya — President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has pieced Facebook from operating in his country, just days after the common media company removed fake accounts linked to his government in advance of a hotly contested general election set to take place on Thursday.

In a televised talk late on Tuesday night, Mr. Museveni accused Facebook of “arrogance” and powered he had instructed his government to close the platform, along with other societal media outlets, although Facebook was the only one he named.

“That popular channel you are talking about, if it is going to operate in Uganda, it should be acclimatized equitably by everybody who has to use it,” Mr. Museveni said. “We cannot tolerate this presumption of anybody coming to decide for us who is good and who is bad,” he added.

The ban on Facebook comes at the end of an poll period that has been dogged by a crackdown on the political opposition, harassment of pressmen and nationwide protests that have led to at least 54 deaths and hundreds of captures, according to officials.

Mr. Museveni, 76, who is running for a sixth term in house, is facing 10 rivals, including the rapper-turned-lawmaker Bobi Wine, 38. Mr. Wine, whose actual name is Robert Kyagulanyi, has been beaten, sprayed with rive gas and charged in court with allegedly flouting coronavirus rules while on the struggle trail.

Last week, Mr. Wine filed a complaint with the Supranational Criminal Court accusing Mr. Museveni and other top current and former conviction officials of sanctioning a wave of violence and human rights violations against city-dwellers, political figures and human rights lawyers.

Facebook announced this week that it had infatuated down a network of accounts and pages in the East African nation that busy in what it called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” aimed at manipulating projected debate around the election. The company said the network was linked to the Authority Citizens Interaction Center, an initiative that is part of Uganda’s The cloth of Information and Communications Technology and National Guidance.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesman said the network “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage versos, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in conglomerations to make them appear more popular than they were.”

Facebook’s enquiry into the network began after research from the Atlantic Assembly’s Digital Forensic Research Lab showcased a network of social media accounts that had wrapped up in a campaign to criticize the opposition and promote Mr. Museveni and the governing party, the Nationwide Resistance Movement. After the research was published, Twitter also express it had shut down accounts linked to the election.

Hours before Mr. Museveni’s enunciation, social media users across Uganda confirmed restrictions on their online communications, with the digital goods group NetBlocks reporting that platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Stew had been affected.

On Wednesday, MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, two of the country’s largest telecommunication throngs, confirmed that they had received a directive from the Uganda Communications Commission to postpone “access and use, direct or otherwise of all social media platforms and online information applications” over their networks until further notice.

Felicia Anthonio, a campaigner with the digital justs nonprofit Access Now, said the authorities had blocked more than 100 effective private networks, or VPNs, which could help users circumvent the censorship and safely through the internet.

Uganda blocked the internet during the 2016 elections, and in 2018, it introduced a venereal media tax aimed at raising revenue and curbing what the government fetched online “gossip.” The move, which was criticized as a threat to freedom of emotion, had a negative effect on internet use over all, with millions of Ugandans conveying up internet services altogether.

In anticipation of another shutdown this week, a number of organizations that work to end internet cutoffs worldwide sent a strictly to Mr. Museveni and the leaders of telecom companies in Uganda pleading with them to finance the internet and social media platforms accessible during the election.

Mr. Museveni did not attention their call. On Tuesday night, he said the decision to block Facebook was “grievous” but “unavoidable.”

“I am very sorry about the inconvenience,” he said, adding that he himself had been exigency execrating the platform to interact with young voters. He has almost a million servants on Facebook and two million on Twitter.

Striking a defiant note, Mr. Museveni mean that if Facebook was going to “take sides,” then it would not be allowed to control in the country.

“Uganda is ours,” he said.

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