Facebook rejects UCC plea to crackdown on Ugandans


Ms Okobi (middle) and Ms Bickert (right) chat with Mr Mutabazi in his office


The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has expressed appreciation at the way Facebook has revolutionised social media communication in Uganda and elsewhere in the world.

UCC Executive Director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, made the observation while meeting two senior Facebook officials who had made a courtesy call at his office at UCC House, Bugolobi on May 11, 2015.

“We are grateful for the communications innovations Facebook has introduced over the years. In Uganda, Facebook is perhaps the leading and most popular social media platform,” he said.

Mr Mutabazi, however, advised Facebook to be cognizant of Uganda’s legal environment and development needs.

“While we uphold freedom of expression and speech, Facebook needs to appreciate our cultural differences. As a developing country, Uganda is keen to ensure that social media is not used to undermine our nascent democracy as well as government’s development efforts,” he said.

Ms Monica Bickert, the in-charge for Development of Global Content Policy at Facebook said they were keen to improve cooperation between Uganda and the global social media platform.

“We want to create better understanding of how Facebook operates as well as forge strong cooperation with the Government of Uganda while not compromising the interests and rights of Facebook users in Uganda,” Bickert said.


Bakakimpa, Ngabirano and Mutabazi at the meeting


“We maintain high-level global communications standards that comply with national standards. We verify information before it’s accepted on our social media platform. And, we do not hesitate to reject and/or take down any content that offends a country’s domestic legislation.”

Bickert said Facebook’s Government Case Works (GCW) was universally liberal and has a quick turn-around response.

“We do not wish to sacrifice freedom of expression at the altar of unwarranted government censorship. It’s generally accepted that public officials and public figures who attract limelight should accept the consequences of their actions,” she said.

Bickert said enforcement was quite a challenge given the high volume of content.

“On average, Facebook receives over 10 million articles per week. This is no mean task bearing in mind that we review content after it has been posted rather than before,” she said, adding that Facebook has taken pro-active measures to address the challenges.

Ms Ebele Okobi, the Head of Facebook’s Public Policy for Africa, said Facebook was happy to note that the uptake of Facebook in Uganda is high.

“We get the least official complaints from the Government of Uganda with regard to the content posted on Facebook. This shows how high freedom of expression is regarded in Uganda,” she said.

Ms Okobi said Facebook was keen to comply with Uganda’s national laws for the high quality freedom of expression and speech, adding child online safety and protection ranked high on Facebook’s content regulation.

“We do not host any accounts belonging to terrorist groups, child and human traffickers or criminals. Facebook utilises Microsoft photo DNA, among other technology innovations, to track pornography and online child abuse,” she said.

Amos Ngabirano (Director for ICT in the Uganda Police Force), Fred Otunnu (Acting Head of Broadcasting as well as head of Communications at UCC) Peter Mukuru (Head of ICT at UCC), Ronald Bakakimpa (Head of Computer Emergency Response Team at UCC, also the national GCW contact person), attended this meeting.

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