Facebook has always dominated as the most used social media platform in Uganda. However, this all comes to fall as its spot is now taken by micro-blogging website, Twitter which has a market share of 57.09% compared to Facebook’s 9.02% sitting in the fourth place after Pinterest (19.13%) and YouTube (10.3%), as of June 2021 according to statistics by Stat Counter.
According to Stat Counter’s chart, Twitter surpassed Facebook to be the most used social media platform in Uganda in mid-January 2021.
Facebook’s fall attributes to Ugandan’s online using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access the platform. This is a result of the Ugandan government indefinitely suspending/blocking the use of the platform after claiming that the social media giants refused to restore the Government of Uganda and NRM Online accounts during the general elections.
Facebook said the accounts were shut down as a result of government accounts linked to the Government Citizens Interaction Center (GCIC) at the Ministry of ICT manipulating public debate ahead of the 2021 general elections.
In a statement, Facebook stated that the accounts were using 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 than they were. Facebook further said these actions were equivalent to Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour; which is termed as the creation of multiple accounts impersonating people and saying things on behalf of people you aren’t.
The shut down of accounts prior to the Jan. 14th, 2021 general elections and on the eve of the elections, the Government temporarily blocked access to all social media platforms including access to app stores to avoid people from downloading VPNs. On the day of the elections, the internet was completely shut down as the Government claimed it was in the interest of national security.
Four days later, the internet was partially restored but access to social media app stores remained blocked. The internet and social media and access to app stores were later restored after 28 days of temporal suspension. However, only Facebook to date still remains blocked and there’s no time frame on when the ban will be lifted for the social platform.
Ugandans online are using VPNs to access the platform which has drastically dropped it from being the most used social media since the IP addresses point to other countries. Since the restoration of social media platforms, there was a hike in the usage of VPNs are Ugandans online vowed not to pay OTT prior before it was withdrawn on July 1st, 2021 in favor of the new 12% tax on mobile data.
Levy on OTT services was withdrawn because of poor performance since many Ugandans preferred to use VPNs and Wi-Fi connections instead of paying the tax.
The 12% tax on mobile internet is one of the seven taxes of the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2021 that the Members of Parliament [the 11th Parliament] passed and went into effect July 1st, 2021.