In what is probably one of the more unique maneuvers out there to raise tax revenue, the nation of Uganda is proposing a tax on social media that would amount to $USD .05 per day but which could net the government $USD 1.5 million a month to be directed towards paying down the sovereign debt – a move that would have a disproportionate effect on photographers who rely on social media as a way to promote their work.
Of course, critics highlight the difficulty in tracking Ugandans' social media use and, further, monitoring how the funds are spent and on what.
Given that social media is so integral to the daily lives of millions of people across the globe, a tax on it would almost seem punitive if not downright cynical.
Advocates of free speech and Internet access rights point to a tax on social media use as a way to curtail the freedom of expression often found on these forums while other people point out that the amount is nominal at best.
Creating laws for social media use and regulating social media networks is not a new concept, however.
As Facebook’s absence in China demonstrates, if a national government doesn’t want a power player in the social media space to have access to their market they won’t.
In fact, Resource Magazine specifically highlights comments from Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said that social media platforms “encourage gossip.”
Holding office since 1986, Museveni shut down all of Uganda’s social media in two separate incidents in 2016 during the country’s national elections. Again, the given reason was the “lies” being spread on the platform. Uganda’s Finance Minister Matia Kasaija justified the tax, saying: “We’re looking for money to maintain the security of the country and extend electricity so that you people can enjoy more social media, more often, more frequently.”
Currently 41% of Uganda’s population uses the Internet and it is often a source of news and entertainment for many citizens of Uganda.