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Uganda blocks Facebook ahead of controversial elections.

NAIROBI, Kenya – Uganda President Yoweri Museveni blocked Facebook from his country’s operations just days after the social media company deleted a fake account linked to his government ahead of the upcoming general election. Up on thursday

In a televised speech late on Tuesday, Museveni accused Facebook of being “arrogant” and said he had ordered his government to shut down the platform along with other social media, even though Facebook was the only one he had. Name

“The social channel you are talking about, if it is to operate in Uganda, everyone who has to use it should be able to use it equally,”

; said Mr. Museveni. “We cannot tolerate the arrogance of anyone who decides instead. We think who is good and who is bad, ”he added.

The Facebook ban comes at the end of the election period, hit by a crackdown on political opposition, harassment of journalists and nationwide protests that have killed at least 54 people and hundreds of arrests.

Museveni, 76, in the sixth term, is facing off against 10 rivals, including rapper Bobi Wine, who turned from 38. Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, was beaten and sprayed. with Tear gas and was charged in court for allegedly violating the coronavirus rule while on the campaign path.

Mr Wein last week filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing Museveni and other high-ranking officials and other former security officials of sanctions for violence and human rights abuses against prominent citizens and political figures. Human rights lawyer

Facebook announced this week that it was removing its network of accounts and pages in the East African country that is involved in so-called “Coordinated misbehavior” aimed at addressing public debate about elections, the company said the network is linked to the Government Citizens Interaction Center, an initiative that is part of the Ministry of Information Technology. And Uganda’s National Communications and Advice

In a statement, a Facebook representative said the network “used fake and duplicate accounts to manage pages, comment on other people’s content, disguise users of repeating posts in groups to make them more popular than they are. Is live “

The investigation into Facebook’s network began after research from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Laboratory showed a network of social media accounts engaged in a campaign to criticize the opposition and promote Mr Museveni and Party of the National Resistance Movement After research published, Twitter also said it had closed accounts linked to the election.

Hours before Mr Museveni’s speech, social media users across Uganda confirmed their online communication restrictions, with digital rights group NetBlocks reporting that platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter were affected.

On Wednesday, MTN Uganda, the country’s largest telecommunications company, confirmed it had been ordered by the Uganda Communications Commission to “suspend access and use, orders, or others of social media platforms and apps. Online messaging applications over the network until further notice. ”

Felicia Anthonio, a digital nonprofit access campaigner, said authorities have blocked more than 100 virtual private networks, or VPNs, that can help users bypass censorship and safely browse the internet.

Uganda blocked the Internet during the 2016 election and in 2018 launched a social media tax to increase revenue and curb what the government calls “gossip” online, the move, which has been criticized for threatening freedom of movement. It shows a totally negative effect on their use of the internet, with millions of Ugandans completely abandoning their use of the internet.

In anticipation of another shutdown this week, a group of organizations working to end the global internet cutoff sent a letter to Mr Museveni and leaders of Uganda telecoms companies asking them to help the internet. And social media platforms can be reached during elections.

Mr. Museveni ignored the call. On Tuesday night, he said the decision to block Facebook was “unlucky” but “inevitable”.

“I’m very sorry about the inconvenience,” he said, adding that he himself used the platform to interact with young voters. He has almost a million followers on Facebook and two million on Twitter.

Mr Museveni said if Facebook were to “take sides” it would not be allowed to operate in the country.

“Uganda is ours,” he said.

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