Five days ago in Uganda, a controversial law went into effect which levied a so-called social media tax, a daily fee that users would have to pay to unblock various social media and messaging platforms. The affected platforms included Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Skype, and WhatsApp.
A national outcry followed. Activists took to Twitter to voice their disapproval while global human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the move which they described as a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, the instigator of the ban, had voiced his qualms about social media, labeling it as a waste of time and resources.
As a response, users have resorted to VPNs to avoid the tax. A VPN is a service that uses a global network of servers and data encryption to hide users’ activities from internet service providers. As such, a user would be able to request access to an online service without revealing his or her IP address, which telecom companies use to track their subscribers.
And now Ugandan authorities have turned to challenge VPNs. “Telecom companies have been directed to subject the VPN to the tax based on available technology or switch them off,” said Godfrey Mutabazi, executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission.
This is not the first time that citizens have resorted to VPNs to bypass internet censorship. It is not the first time that governments have tried to stifle the use of VPNs in response either. The events in Uganda bear an eerie similarity to what happened in China. The Chinese government had blocked what it deems as ‘foreign media’ – such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and WhatsApp – and made the use of VPNs illegal.
Both stories have the same beginning, so it would be safe to assume that VPNs will prevail in Uganda in the same way they did in China.
There are many good VPNs out there, so it’s hard to choose one. A good rule of thumb would be to stay away from free ones, as those are very likely to try and siphon some revenue from your data. When shopping for a VPN, you should look at its global reach (i.e. the number and location of its servers), how safe it is (the strength of the protocols and encryption it uses), and how fast it is (VPNs typically slow down your connection.)
With these criteria in mind, our personal recommendation falls on ExpressVPN. It is fast, the fastest we’ve tested so far, employs state of the art protocols and encryption, and covers all the major locations in the world. The service also offers a 30-day money back guarantee trial period, meaning that if you don’t like it, you can just walk away after a month and lose nothing.
Be sure to also take a look at the rest of our VPN recommendations. Each one of those VPN services was thoroughly tested by our experts.
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