Uganda enacts unenforceable, ridiculous anti-"gossip" internet tax

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…but it’s unclear how it will be enforced.

First of all, how will it be collected? Annually? Microtransactions? Nigerian princes?


Mostly via mobile phones, which are heavily monitored and which support micro-transactions already. The majority of this is easily automated by comparing sites people visit against a short list of the top social media sites and adding the tax to their phone bill automatically. (Yes, I am aware of the bazillion ways this could be circumvented and the possible false positives, but I doubt any of that prevents Museveni from sleeping well at night.)

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Uganda’s Bureau of Statistics has numbers that are a trifle behind the times; but in 2015 they reported just over 130,000 wireline internet subscribers and just under 7.35 million mobile users; with annual growth twice as high in the latter category.

Even if mobile devices weren’t typically harder to control and more treasonous than real computers(it sure will be a challenge for a carrier to know if you are using the social media app they baked into your firmware…); tagging and categorization of the traffic at the ISP level, for any ‘social media’ with network effects large enough to matter, just isn’t a terribly hard problem except against people who are spending rather more than 5 cents a day on VPNs and onion routing and stuff.

(edit: aside from the fact that mobile users are even softer targets; carrier billing is already set up for dealing with(usually piling on) very small charges; either by taking bites out of your airtime card if it’s a prepaid setup or just by padding your bill if it’s a subscription.Carriers might do some posturing about how ‘burdensome’ the collection process would be; but architecturally it would be no more difficult that nailing people for premium-rate SMS scams or company-store ringtones; an exercise that, mysteriously, is deeply non-burdensome to telcos.)

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Imagine if governments around the world would tax you 5 cents every day you are using social media…

(Obviously I would be laughing to myself in my cave in the woods thinking about all the money I’m saving)

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