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Ugandans Fight Restrictive Internet Law

FILE - A man uses a computer to read news at a cyber cafe . Taken Feb. 10, 2021
FILE - A man uses a computer to read news at a cyber cafe . Taken Feb. 10, 2021

A coalition of leading Ugandan rights groups and lawyers on Thursday filed a court challenge to a controversial new internet law, which they say is aimed at curbing free speech and targeting government opponents.

Nine rights groups, a former leader of the opposition in parliament and three prominent lawyers lodged the petition at the Constitutional Court on Thursday -- the second court challenge to the law.

The petitioners - which include Chapter Four, Uganda's most prominent rights group - say the law regulates online behavior in a "vague and ambiguous manner".

Chapter Four's acting Executive Director, Anthony Masake, told AFP that the new law's "strict and vague authorization standards" mean that journalists will never know when they are crossing a line by collecting information on people they are reporting on.

Legal experts have warned that the law will be used to target government critics who are already operating in a shrinking civic space.

The amendment to the Computer Misuse Act, signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last month, has been criticized by Amnesty International, which has called for the "draconian" legislation to be scrapped.

People convicted under the law are barred from holding public office for 10 years, which Amnesty warned was a way of reinforcing state control over online freedom of expression, including by political opposition groups.

Offenders also face fines of up to 15 million Ugandan shillings (about $3,900) and prison terms of up to seven years.

Uganda has seen a series of crackdowns on those opposed to Museveni's rule, particularly around the 2021 election, with journalists attacked, lawyers jailed, vote monitors prosecuted, the internet shut down and opposition leaders violently muzzled.


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Meta Toughens Content Curbs for Teens on Instagram, Facebook

FILE - Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture
FILE - Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture

WASHINGTON — Meta on Tuesday said it was tightening up content restrictions for teens on Instagram and Facebook as it faces increased scrutiny that its platforms are harmful for young people.

The changes come months after dozens of U.S. states accused Meta of damaging the mental health of children and teens, and misleading users about the safety of its platforms.

In a blog post, the company run by Mark Zuckerberg said it will now "restrict teens from seeing certain types of content across Facebook and Instagram even if it's from friends or people they follow."

This type of content would include content that discusses suicide or self-harm, as well as nudity or mentions of restricted goods, the company added.

Restricted goods on Instagram include tobacco products and weapons as well as alcohol, contraception, cosmetic procedures and weight loss programs, according to its website.

In addition, teens will now be defaulted into the most restricted settings on Instagram and Facebook, a policy that was in place for new users and that now will be expanded to existing users.

This will "make it more difficult for people to come across potentially sensitive content or accounts in places like Search and Explore," the company said.

Meta also said that it will expand its policy of hiding results to searches related to suicide and self harm to include more terms.

Leaked internal research from Meta, including by the Wall Street Journal and whistle-blower Frances Haugen, has shown that the company was long aware of dangers its platforms have on the mental health for young people.

On the platforms, teens are defined as being under eighteen, based on the date of birth they give when signing up.

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