The Ugandan government has implemented a law forcing mobile users to pay taxes to use mobile money and social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Skype.
As of July 1, people in Uganda have to pay 200 Ugandan shillings (about 5 cents in USD) a day if they want to use social media or pay using mobile money.
“When I woke up, I was surprised that I had not received any messages on my Whatsapp or messenger. I could not login to my Twitter account either,” one Uganda resident posted on Facebook, according to Ugandan news outlet the Daily Monitor. “This was strange given the fact that I had just bought 10 GB of data two days ago. I was about to call my telecom service provider then I remembered it is July 1, 2018, the day when government said it would implement social media tax on orders of our President.”
According to the Daily Monitor, people across the country took to social media to share their frustration, and explain how to get around using the tax (for now) by using VPN.
The idea was first floated in March, when President Yoweri Museveni reportedly wrote a letter complaining to the finance minster about online gossip and suggesting a tax be introduced to “cope with consequences.”
In May, parliament passed legislation introducing the tax on “Over The Top” social media that provided messaging services. And now, it’s finally been implemented.
Users can pay the tax using mobile money. Ugandan telecom providers sent out a statement instructing users how to pay with mobile money using their services—because of course, it’s not easy to pay for something using a payment service that you have to pay a tax on in order to use.