Google asks Uganda Government to go to Court to pull Down Ghetto Media

The head of Communication and Public Affairs for Africa at Google, Dorothy Ooko has said “it is very hard to just have a channel removed due to a government request.”

That was her quick and brief response to a letter by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) requesting Google to take down 17 YouTube accounts that have largely been publishing or live-streaming content from presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi’s campaign trail.

The channels that UCC is targeting have been gaining traction because of the content they publish, most of which is enhancing Kyagulanyi’s messages. They had more than 59 million views and 300,000 subscribers as of December 15, when URN analyzed YouTube stats of the said channels.

In a letter dated December 9, 2020, to the Chief Executive Officer Google Inc, UCC said that the YouTube channels it listed violated Ugandan laws and that the continued broadcast by the channels might cause economic sabotage and compromise Uganda’s national security.

UCC says, without evidence detailed in the letter, that most of the channels were used to mobilize riots that resulted in loss of lives. UCC also accuses the YouTube channels of reporting news in a sensational, unbalanced and unprofessional manner.

“The broadcasts contain gruesome pictures including pictures of dead bodies, wounded victims of attacks and accidents, in a manner likely to cause public anxiety. Glorifies lawlessness and undermines public interest, confidence in the law and its enforcement in Uganda,” the letter reads.

But for YouTube channels to be removed, Ooko said, the governments have to submit court orders. “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.

Ghetto is among channels targeted by UCC

A transparency report on YouTube community guidelines indicates that the site does not allow pornography, incitement to violence, harassment, or hate speech, and relies on a combination of people and technology to flag inappropriate content and enforce these guidelines. It adds that a YouTube channel is terminated if it accrues three warnings in 90 days, has a single case of severe abuse, or is determined to be wholly dedicated to violating the entity’s guidelines.

“Flags can come from our automated flagging systems, from members of the Trusted Flagger program (NGOs, government agencies, and individuals) or from users in the broader YouTube community,” the page reads.

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.

“This is political, it’s not about business or registration,” Robert Kirunda, a lecturer at Makerere University says.  “UCC gagged mainstream media and they thought that once you control radio and TV and say don’t air Bobi Wine rallies, you have solved the problem,” he added.

Compiled by the Independent

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