Control over the world wide web has once more taken centre stage as Uganda heads to the polls on Jan. 14. With technology giants including Facebook, Google, and Twitter sucked to the bitter fight.
On Jan. 9 reports surfaced that Facebook had disappeared countless accounts associated with president Yoweri Museveni supporters in Uganda. A few of the accounts belong to pro-government online publications while others belong to civil servants and socialites turned Museveni advisers.
Facebook has confirmed in an announcement to Quartz Africa it carried out the purge since the affected individuals and groups where employing the platform to control voters before the elections. The tech giant claims it is constantly working to find and put an end to coordinated campaigns which want to control public debate on the platform via what it calls”coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB).”
“This month, we removed a network of accounts and Pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB to target public debate ahead of the election. They used fake and duplicate accounts to manage Pages, comment on other people’s content, impersonate users, re-share posts in Groups to make them appear more popular that they were,” that a Facebook spokesperson stated.
Facebook claims that the operation was connected to this Government Citizen Interaction Centre at Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. Duncan Abigaba, a supervisor at the centre was one of the first government officials to shout foul about Facebook’s move.
“Given the impending election in Uganda, we moved quickly to investigate and take down this network,” the Facebook spokesperson said.
All eyes are about the rising influence and importance of social media platforms on local and national politics and governance around the world. A couple of days before, on Jan. 7, Twitter and Facebook directed other social networking and e-commerce platforms in banning US president Donald Trump at the last few days of his presidency to prevent him potentially using their electronic hit to further incite his supporters. Twitter’s ban has been upgraded to a permanent ban.
With fewer than three times to the polls, there are reports that the internet network in the nation is already being slowed down. Ugandans with virtual private networks (VPNs) installed in their apparatus claim they can’t download apps from digital stores such as Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. These include programs developed for election-related information and observation.
For years, Ugandans have harbored fears of net related restrictions since the contentious 2016 general elections when the nation limited access to social websites causing an information blackout through the process. Afterwards, government introduced a controversial social media taxation .
These limitations and taxation have caused a spike in the use of VPNs in Uganda since 2016 to assist circumvent constraints by allowing users to appear to be linking to the internet from a different nation.
Facebook says it’s going to discuss more details about the networks they eliminated in their January CIB report due at the beginning of February.
A former information minister under whose reign the citizens’ interaction center was set up , by way of instance, called the move an insult of communication platforms by technology giants. Others have called for Facebook to be prohibited in Uganda.
Museveni’s spokesman, Don Wanyama increased alarm over the movement in a tweet. Wanyama informed Quartz Africa it is all up to Facebook to describe their choice. He declined to discuss the issue further.
Pro-regime supporters accuse among his competitors in the presidential race, Robert Kyagulanyi a.k.a Bobi Wine along with his alleged foreign backers of instigating the move. The two camps have engaged in social media struggles including flagging and reporting content on their rivals.
Last month, a number of pro-Bobi Wine accounts were allegedly