President Yoweri Museveni has been slapped with a Shs 800 million bill from bloggers whose Facebook platforms were deleted by the social network company ahead of the January 14 general elections.
Facebook reported that it had removed 220 accounts, 32 Pages, 59 groups and 139 Instagram accounts for violating its policy against government interference.
Most of the platforms were for pro-government supporters including bloggers, journalists and staff at the Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC) that the tech giant accused of engaging “in CIB (Coordinated Inauthentic Behaviour) to target public debate ahead of the election.”
About two weeks ago, the bloggers wrote to Museveni asking him to compensate them for their deleted accounts and pages since Facebook went hard on them because of his campaigns.
“Their reasoning is that, Facebook was the source of their livelihood even outside the campaigns because they had been promoting different products and services from which they were earning,” a source said.
It is understood that the bloggers delivered their demands to Museveni through Balaam Barugahare who recruited some of them from Robert Kyagulanyi’s camp.
One of them, Ashburg Kato tweeted on January 30 about these demands. In his tweet, he asked Museveni to buy them mobile phones, laptop computers and cash since they can no longer raise money to pay for their rent.
Dear @KagutaMuseveni we r some of the Bazukulu who got banned from f.b for supporting u. Tubadde tusabayo📱ne 💻 empya coz we can’t use our old gadgets anymore. Mpozi nekirala, tuweeyo ku kasente katubeeremu nanti f.b was our only source of income kati n’eza rent hakuna 🤦♂️😭🙏 pic.twitter.com/FuBrVpCBLq— Ashburg Katto (@ashburgkatto) January 30, 2021
Some of the affected Facebook users denied being part of the scheme but expressed fears that their colleagues could have listed them among the claimants without their knowledge.
Giles Muhame, the president of the online publishers’ association told The Witness on Saturday that they had instead petitioned Facebook to unblock their accounts.
Muhame also heads Chimpreports, a Kampala based news website whose Facebook page is among those that were pulled down.
“Chimpreports applealed to Facebook to unblock us because we feel it was an error. We wrote to them and we are waiting for their feedback,” Muhame said.
Asked about the Shs 800 million compensation bill that is before Museveni, Muhame said, “I am not part of it, maybe some people did so at an individual level.”
ICT and National Guidance minister, Judith Nabakooba said she hadn’t heard about the demand for compensation.
“For now, UCC [Uganda Communications Commission] is engaging Facebook to reactivate the accounts,” Nabakooba said.
Facebook remains officially blocked in Uganda as a retaliative action by government. The popular social network platform however remains accessible to its users through virtual private network (VPN) applications.