In Africa, A New Tactic to Suppress Online Speech: Taxing Social Media

Babatunde Okunoye is a research officer at Paradigm Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @TOkunoye.

In 2010, protests swept across North Africa and the Middle East after a Tunisian vendor self-immolated in protest of police confiscating his cart. During those protests, activists’ skillful use of social media was pivotal in mobilizing the public and ultimately toppling strongmen like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Since then, African leaders have turned to increasingly sophisticated forms of censorship to limit free speech and curb people’s ability to organize via platforms. Their most recent strategy: taxing people for using social media. Although African leaders claim they need these taxes to shore up government revenue, social media taxes are merely censorship cloaked in an economic argument.

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