"Be Awesome": A Youth-Led Mental Health Program for Ugandan Schools
Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, yet many young people in Uganda face significant challenges when it comes to th…
This amended law is worrying because, in between the lines, it assumes that all speech on social media platforms is somehow meant to be flattering and positive, which, as any Gen-Z who has been on social media for a few years knows, is not what the algorithms were meant to amplify (check your TikTok For You Page if you're doubting the power of the algorithm in amplifying divisiveness).
A few months ago, a Parliamentarian, Hon. Muhammad Nsereko introduced amendments to the Computer Misuse Act of 2011 claiming that it did not properly address the sharing of information related to children and other amendments that focused on hate speech and offensive speech.
The law (and its changes) appears obviously to be a tool for government and law enforcement to repress opposition at best and malevolent at worst. One of the last remaining platforms for free speech for the frequently marginalized in society is social media; LGBTQ people have used it for lobbying, dating, and community building.
With the recent closure of SMUG (due to some hard work by ex-gays and the increase in the tightening and shrinking of the civil society safe spaces using tedious bureaucracy ), social media: especially Twitter, has been used to call attention to this ridiculousness and absurdity.
While the conversations have brought life-long homophobes and religious bigots out of the woods back into relevance, LGBTQ activists have been able to make their voices heard.
The amended law is worrying because, in between the lines, it assumes that all speech on social media platforms is somehow meant to be flattering and positive, which, as any Gen-Z who has been on social media for a few years knows, is not what the algorithms were meant to amplify (check your TikTok For You Page if you're doubting the power of the algorithm in amplifying divisiveness).
In fact, the basic concept of freedom of speech and expression (which includes the right to offend) is under attack. The ambiguity of these amendments could be used to clamp down on anything considered offensive, which could include any information portraying LGBTQ people in a positive light. In fact, the authorities could deem the conversation a form of "promotion" of homosexuality (which argument has been used before in the suppression of artistic works such as music and plays).
And I also take issue with the issue of fake accounts or pseudo accounts in a clause introduced in the bill by the MP. “A person who uses social media to publish, distribute or share information, prohibited under the laws of Uganda or using a disguised or false identity, commits an offense”.
While the line between parody and offense here is really blurry, Often queer people create pseudo-accounts to protect their identities as they are interacting on social media with people who could blackmail, extort, or out them in the real world. These pseudo-accounts often provide a layer of protection for queer people navigating social media. And the punishment for owning a pseudo account as proposed is laughable if it was not deadly serious ( a fine of UGX 16 million, 5 years in jail, or both a fine and imprisonment).
While I realize that there are workarounds on the internet and social media for queer people to safely communicate, this law disproportionately targets two kinds of people.
In fact, a reading of this law and its almost laughable amendments would essentially deem queer identity and expression illegal on social media.
Finally, to my queer brothers and sisters, do not fret. We will always have family and safe spaces to be ourselves both online and offline. Oooh and I still have so many questions, will they coordinate with the social media websites to collect evidence? What about dating sites? Remember that time when the ethics minister decided to "block" pornography websites? And when will Facebook be released from its VPN prison?