London: Uganda has imposed a controversial tax on people using social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter in a move to curb “gossip” and raise revenue, the media reported.
According to the new Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, to be in effect from July 1, a fine of 200 shilling [$0.05) daily would be imposed on people using these platforms, the BBC reported late on Thursday.
The country’s President Yoweri Museveni who had pushed for the changes in the social media law back in March argued that social media encourages gossip.
In a letter to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Museveni insisted that the revenue collected by the social media tax would help the country “cope with consequences of olugambo (gossiping)”.
The revenue raised is also intended to help pay off of the country’s growing national debt, the report said.
State Minister for Finance David Bahati told Parliament that the tax increases were needed to help Uganda pay off its growing national debt.
However, experts and at least one major internet service provider have raised doubts about how a daily tax on social media will be implemented, the BBC reported.
The government is struggling to ensure all mobile phone SIM cards are properly registered, it noted.
Museveni, on the other hand, has argued against a tax on internet data as according to him it is useful for “educational, research or reference purposes”.
The new law will also impose various other taxes, including a one per cent levy on the total value of mobile money transactions, the report said.
Social media has become an important political tool in Uganda for both the ruling party and the opposition.
Access to platforms was shut during Presidential elections in 2016. President Museveni insisted at the time that it was done to “stop spreading lies”, the report said.