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Uganda orders all social media to be blocked as hotly contested election looms – letter

Uganda orders all social media to be blocked as hotly contested election looms – letter
The Uganda Communications Commission has apparently decided to block all social media platforms “until further notice” as the country prepares to take to the polls on Thursday.

Uganda ordered its internet service providers to block all social media platforms and messaging apps on Tuesday, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.  

“Uganda Communications Commission hereby directs you to immediately suspend any access and use, direct or otherwise, of all social media platforms and online messaging applications over your network until further notice,” the letter reads. 

Earlier on Tuesday, it was reported that users were no longer able to access Facebook. Google PlayStore, Apple Store and YouTube had already been switched off. 

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While the controversial banning of US President Donald Trump from Twitter has stolen the headlines, the Ugandan government has also been at odds with social media companies.   

On Monday, Facebook shut a slew of accounts belonging to Ugandan government officials, saying that the pages were being used to manipulate public debate ahead of elections. 

“This month, we removed a network of accounts and pages in Uganda that engaged in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior) to target public debate ahead of the election,” Facebook's head of communication for sub-Saharan Africa, Kezia Anim-Addo, said in an email. 

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Social media has been widely used by candidates in the run-up to Thursday’s election which pits long-serving President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 34 years, against popstar-turned-politician Bobi Wine. 

Wine has repeatedly used his Twitter account to highlight the reported harassment he and his colleagues have experienced on the campaign trail. In November, Wine was arrested by security forces, sparking widespread unrest across the country.

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