Social media tax takes effect in Uganda

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KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- A new tax on social media has taken effect in Uganda, angering many who see the revenue measure as an attack on free speech.

The tax on users of sites such as Facebook was first proposed by long-time leader Yoweri Museveni, who complained of online gossip in a March letter that urged the finance minister to raise money "to cope with the consequences".

In addition to the usual data fees, social media users now must pay upfront a daily levy of 200 shillings or US$0.05 to access all social media websites.

Service providers, including regional telecommunications giant MTN, said in a joint statement Sunday that starting July 1 the levy would be charged on "Over The Top services," including access to websites such as Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. The tax will be deducted by service providers that will then pay to the government revenue service.

Many Ugandans are "bitter" because the tax "was brought in bad faith," said Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a prominent human rights lawyer.

"The reasons for it were anti-people, were anti-social, not development-oriented," he said Monday.