Ugandan authorities on Monday allowed the restoration of some web services within the country, 5 days after a shutdown that occurred as last week’s election approached. While the property has been reconditioned to 90 % of normal levels following the announcement of the election result—a landslide triumph for President Yoweri Museveni, who has held office since 1986—Ugandans will solely access social media via virtual private networks (VPNs). Through VPNs, users can bypass web censorship by having their iping|IP|science|scientific discipline} address seem as if based overseas—international servers process the users’ internet traffic. However, VPNs don’t seem to be a remedy, as long as governments can block all overseas information processing addresses as well as those coming back through a VPN. The Ugandan government isn’t illustrious to have blocked international ip addresses but its partial web censorship persists. “As web connectivity partly returns to [Uganda], metrics show an identical pattern of extensive social media and messaging restrictions as prior to election day with some new additions. Hence, where internet service is back it remains less than usable,” NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, expressed on Twitter, where it has implored Ugandan authorities to revive full internet access.
The BBC rumored that Museveni is believed by the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) to have shut off web access “to prevent [the NUP] from sharing proof of fraud.” The NUP’s belief is contradicted by Museveni who commented that last week’s election might have been the country’s “most cheating-free” election up to now. Maintaining the barred social media access for Ugandans without VPNs raises considerations regarding freedom of information within the country. Social media platforms became hubs for information-sharing across domestic and international spheres—a function of mammoth importance when making an informed call regarding one’s participation in the democratic election method. Though such platforms house some misinformation and disinformation that muddies the accuracy of the data pool, they’re helpful tools to inform oneself regarding party policies, the general public views of, and missions spearheaded by party candidates, similarly as data regarding the electoral method. The censorship has been widely condemned. NetBlocks expressed that the internet shutdown left “citizens in an information vacuum,” and non-governmental organization un Watch tweeted, “Congratulations to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on winning re-election after murdering, imprisoning & silencing opponents, shutting down the internet, and committing widespread voter fraud.”
Kyle sociologist, who operates Uganda’s web exchange point, which routes internet traffic within the country, posted on Twitter and told CPJ in a phone interview that domestic web traffic within the country fell by ninety-five percent as a result of the government’s orders.