These days, we have become so addicted to social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber and Twitter that imagining a single day without these seem like a nightmare. Wonder what if social media usage becomes taxable? Well, this nightmare has turned into a reality for the people of Uganda. The country appears to be the most recent nation in which free speech on the internet is no longer a given.

Recently, the Ugandan government has passed a law to impose a controversial tax on people using social media platforms. As per the new Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, to be in effect from July 1, a fine of 200 shilling (Rs 132) daily would be imposed on people using internet messaging platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and Twitter. The tax has been imposed in a move to curb ‘gossip’ and raise revenue.

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The country’s President Yoweri Museveni who had pushed for the changes in the social media law back in March argued that social media encourages gossip. In a letter to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Museveni insisted that the revenue collected by the social media tax would help the country “cope with consequences of olugambo (gossiping)”.

The revenue raised is also intended to help pay off of the country’s growing national debt, the report said.

State minister for finance David Bahati told parliament that the tax increases were needed to help Uganda pay off its growing national debt.

The government is struggling to ensure all mobile phone SIM cards are properly registered, it noted.

The new law will also impose various other taxes, including a 1% levy on the total value of mobile money transactions, the report said.

(With inputs from IANS)