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Facebook blocks Ugandan government accounts in the run-up to election

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Facebook appears to be taking its disinformation policy seriously as it has now blocked government-linked accounts in Uganda ahead of the election. 

The social media giant made this move on Monday, January 11 after it identified the accounts spreading co-ordinated disinformation in relation to the upcoming election. 

Uganda will have an election on Thursday, January 14. Despite calling itself a democracy, elections in the country have been brought with government intimidation. The country's leader, Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986. 

His government have been accused of human rights abuses, especially against opposition leaders and parties. Recently, opposition leaders have been arrested and released multiple times ahead of the election. 

The government has also tried to control descent through policies which look to have overreach on social media. In 2018, they introduced a "social media tax" which required citizens to pay around 200 shillings to use OTT services. Many have avoided the tax by using VPNs to get around it. 

Spreading disinformation 

"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, told France24. 

"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."

Facebook said it moved quickly as it understood that the upcoming elections could be affected by these kinds of campaigns. 

Ugandan officials and politicians have criticised the ban and called for Facebook to be shut down in the country. This appears to have been somewhat enacted as internet providers were given a letter by the government on Tuesday demanding they shut down social media sites. 

Museveni has said that social media sites will be shut down for two days ahead of the vote. These are said to include Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal and Viber. 

Leila Stein

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.