In May, Tanzanian bloggers lost an appeal that had temporarily suspended a new set of regulations granting the country's Communication Regulatory Authority discretionary powers to censor online content.
Officially dubbed the Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations, 2018 , the statute requires online content creators -- traditional media websites, online TV and radio channels, but also individual bloggers and podcasters
-- to pay roughly two million Tanzanian shillings (930 US dollars) in registration and licensing fees.
They must store contributors' details for 12 months and have means to identify their sources and disclose financial sponsors. Cyber cafes must install surveillance cameras, and all owners of electronic mobile devices, including phones, have to
protect them with a password. Failure to comply with the regulations -- which also forbid online content that is indecent, annoying, or that leads to public disorder -- will result in a five million Tanzanian shillings (2,202 US dollars) fine, a
jail term of not less than a year or both.
These new regulations are already forcing young content creators--and often poorer ones--offline. For a country like Tanzania, whose GDP per capita is 879 US dollars --and where approximately 70% of the population lives on less than two dollars a
day--the financial burden of these new laws means it is impossible to continue blogging.
The number of people using the internet in Uganda has dropped by 26% since July 2018, when the country's social media tax was put into force. Prior to the tax's implementation, 47.4% of people in Uganda were using the internet. Three months after
the tax was put in place, that number had fallen to 35%.
ISPs charge an additional 200 Ugandan shillings (UGX) in social media tax on top of the ISP access fees and standard sales tax. This is nominally 5.4 US cents but is a significant portion of typical Ugandan incomes.
President Yoweri Museveni and several government officials said this was intended to curb online rumor-mongering and to generate more tax revenue.
The tax was the subject of large-scale public protests in July and August 2018. During one protest against the tax, key opposition leader, activist and musician Bobi Wine noted that the tax was enforced to oppress the young generation.
The government expected to collect about UGX 24 billion in revenue from the tax every quarter. But in the first quarter after the tax's implementation, they collected UGX 20 billion. In the second quarter, ending December 2018, they had collected
only UGX 16 billion.
While some people have gone offline altogether, others are simply finding different and more affordable ways to connect. People are creating shared access points where one device pays the tax and tethers the rest as a WiFi hotspot, or relying on
workplace and public area WiFi networks to access the services.
Other Ugandans are using Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications to bypass the tax. In a statement for
The Daily Monitor , the Uganda Revenue Authority's Ian Rumanyika argued that people could not use the VPNs forever, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
In addition to leaving Ugandans with less access to communication and diminished abilities to express themselves online, it has also affected economic and commercial sectors, where mobile money and online marketing are essential components of