Uganda has banned social media just two days ahead of the upcoming presidential election after Facebook removed several government officials’ accounts on Monday.
According to Reuters, Uganda’s communications regulator submitted a letter to internet service providers dated January 12, ordering them to block all social media platforms and messaging apps until further notice.
The list of banned social media sites includes Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal and Viber.
Facebook shut down several accounts linked to the country’s Ministry of Information, accusing the network of accounts of orchestrating numerous fake and duplicate accounts to promote Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook’s head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said in an email to AFP. “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.”
President Yoweri Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, faces off against opposition leader Bobi Wine in this week’s election.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is publicly denying any knowledge of the ban. UCC spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa told AFP: “I am not aware of a directive to switch off internet or social media platforms.”
He added, “There has been slow connectivity on the platforms which can be partly due to heavy traffic as a result of the forthcoming elections,” he said.
Many on social media are calling the social media restrictions an infringement of Ugandan’s human rights and a direct attempt to not only suppress, but to intimidate potential voters.