Google Responds to Uganda Gov’t Request to Block 13 Online Platforms

American technology company Google has asked the Uganda government to submit a court order in connection with a request for blocking Ghetto TV and 13 other online platforms linked to National Unity Platform (NUP).

The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) on December 9 asked American technology company Google to block access to the online platforms on allegations of inciting violence.

But Google’s head of Communication and Public Affairs for Africa Dorothy Ooko said a mere government request may not work at the moment.

 “It is very hard to just have a channel removed due to a government request. We always follow local law, but it would have to be a valid court order. The letters just show what the UCC submitted to the Embassy; they are not court orders,” she said in an email response on Wednesday.

In a letter dated December 9, 2020, UCC says that the online platforms misrepresent information, views, facts and events in a manner likely to mislead and incite violence due to their tribe and political opinions.

The online channels include TMO Online, Lumbuye Fred, Trending Channel Ug, Uganda Yaffe, Uganda News Updates, Ghetto TV and Busesa Media Updates. Others are Uganda Empya, Map Mediya TV, KK TV, Ekyooto TV, Namungo Media, JB Muwonge and Bobi Wine 2021.

 “The Commission is in receipt of complaints from stakeholders including the Minister of Internal Affairs (as Chairperson of the National Security Council), the Uganda Police Force and has also observed that communication services, platforms and networks, including YouTube, are being used to publish, disseminate, and/or broadcast content that, contrary to Uganda Communications Act of 2013 and Regulation 8(2) of the Uganda Communications (Content Regulations 2019),” the letter reads in part.

UCC said that the listed accounts do not hold licenses and are violating the law, using YouTube.

“Wherefore, as the regulator of the communications sector in Uganda and in accordance with the Sections 5(1) (b), (j), (x), 6 and 45 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013, the Commission hereby implores Google to block access to the following accounts,” UCC stated in the later.

The request to have the channels removed in the middle of a presidential campaign in which Kyagulanyi has leveraged the use of online platforms has been viewed as an attempt to limit online space for the musician turned politician, according to lawyers.

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