ALL Blogs

Freedom of Opinion and Expression Online is a Human Right even with Disinformation in the Digital Age

According to the mandate established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a special rapporteur is expected to gather information relating to violations of the right on freedom of opinion and expression, threats or use of violence and perception or intimidation of people seeking to exercise or promote the right to FoOE. As an organization that promotes the right to FoOE, WOUGNET submitted a report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression with a focus on the issue of disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression to aid her upcoming report to the Human Rights Council, to be presented in June 2021. WOUGNET gave different examples of disinformation that were approved by investigative channels like PesaCheck, challenges raised by disinformation, examples of disinformation that happened during the general elections, policies, and regulations that are put in place to counteract disinformation and the dangers associated with these legal and regulatory frameworks. The report highlighted the rights of Ugandans that were violated in the quest to eradicate disinformation. This included a brutal arrest and treatment of journalists, closure of social media pages for those in support for the opposition parties especially the National Unity Platform (NUP), the total shut down of the internet during the 2021 general elections following the directive of the Uganda Communications Commission. This action prohibited people from accessing information which is a fundamental right as stipulated by article 41 of the constitution of Uganda. Internet shut down further hindered the freedom of opinion and expression which gives mandate to people to participate in all democratic processes and the mandate to enjoy further human rights in light of the international human rights and standards. In order to promote and protect the rights of freedom of expression and opinion in the 2026 elections, WOUGNET suggested some recommendations for the Special Rapporteur on how to protect and promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression while addressing disinformation. These included and not limited to the following; the government should educate and engage the public about how to discern fake news online and how-to fact-check, as opposed to using broad and vague criminal laws against the public as the only solution, Uganda should Repeal Section 171 of the Penal Code and promote societal resilience to disinformation by developing and implementing nationwide civic education and empowerment programs, alongside multi-stakeholder groups, including CSOs and media actors, Human rights defenders and activists should promote the implementation of the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression And “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda which highlights that the human right to impart information and ideas is not limited to correct statements.

Image Courtesy of University of Rhode Island

Written by Nampiima Maria Gorret, Program Assistant; Information Sharing and Networking Program. 

The Role of Social Media: An enabler in Voicing Women’s concerns in the Digital Age

WOUGNET being an organization that embraces the significance and impact of ICT in empowering women for sustainable Development, it invests in managing its social media platforms as a crucial factor in amplifying its mission and vision. Throughout the first quarter, WOUGNET has used its social media platforms as a tool to advocate for the digital rights for all especially women’s rights online through timely engagement with its audience on its social media platforms.  Following the trend of  the 2011 and 2016 internet shut down that was declared around the election time, WOUGNET joined Access now and other organizations that value digital rights to write an open letter of appeal to the president of Uganda claiming for internet freedom and other digital communications tools during the 2021 general election. WOUGNET further used its Twitter account to run the #KeepItOn campaign that initiated by Access Now to ensure increased participation and transparency in Uganda’s presidential elections. In this campaign, we tasked the government to ensure that internet freedom including social media and other digital communication platforms remained open, inclusive and secure across the country throughout the election period.

As a member of the Women’s Situation Room steering committee, WOUGNET used its social media handles to promote peace during the 2021 general elections. As the entire world celebrated the International Data Privacy Day on the 28th of January 2021, WOUGNET, used its social media handles to call upon women to ensure their safety and privacy online using the #OwnYourPrivacy hashtag and also provided them with information on how to ensure their privacy. WOUGNET has used its social media platforms to promote the work of other digital rights and Women Rights organizations as a sign of solidarity with a noble cause of creating a sense of need to embrace ICT for women and promotion of digital rights in general. This has been achieved through retweeting and sharing trending campaigns and/or Hashtags that are being run by other organizations for example #ICT4dev.

In celebration of the International Women’s Day (#IWD2021), WOUGNET used its social media platforms to join various of organizations to celebrate the international women’s day by engaging in the #IChooseToChallenge2021 campaign.  WOUGNET also participated in an online session in which the Executive Director shared knowledge on how to engage better with social media and ICTs in collaboration with the #UNMerit, #SITE4Society and Friend in Need India and also used it as a platform to share WOUGNET’s work on the topic of digitalization and violence against women and girls. As a result of our prompt and efficient engagement in social media platforms especially twitter which is a highly embraced social media platform for advocacy campaigns, by 16th March, 2021 WOUGNET had reached 5000+ followers on twitter. The increase of followers on our twitter platform indicates an increase in the visibility and impact of WOUGNET’s efforts in reaching our mission to promote and support the use of ICTs among women and women’s rights organizations in Uganda for sustainable development.

Written by Nampiima Maria Gorret, Program Assistant; Information Sharing and Networking Program. 

Championing Peace and Security by Women and Youth during Uganda’s 2021 General Elections

As a member of the 2021 Women’s Situation Room (WSR) steering Committee, WOUGNET played a critical role in mobilizing women and youth in Kampala to ensure their active participation in promoting peace before, during, and after elections. The WSR is a non-partisan mechanism that was launched in the 2011 elections in Liberia and later Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda in 2016. The mechanism works with the electoral commission, national security organs, political party leaders, human rights commissions, and civil society organizations to ensure peace before, during, and after elections. WOUGNET facilitated the training of 50 youth and 50 women from Kampala with representatives from the informal and formal sector to become advocates of peace, a process that promoted their leadership in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. WOUGNET similarly coordinated the peace activities that were implemented by the youth and women peace advocates in the areas of Kamwokya, Rubaga, Central Division, Kawempe, Makerere University. During a follow-up meeting to access the impact of the peace advocates and the challenges they faced, a number of success stories were registered. As an example, Kyomugisha Olivia, a youth peace advocate who resides in the ghetto areas of Kawempe promoted peace during the election period by conducting peace dialogues with youth in her community like boda-boda riders, youth out of school who were most likely to engage in violent acts by using games like Ludo as a mobilizing strategy.

She stated that,

I went to the trading center with my board game for Ludo while wearing my WSR t-shirt to meet the youth, and the moment they saw me, they joined me to play thus giving me a ground to preach about peace”.

Olivia went an extra mile to mobilize a team of young girls in her community who joined her to hang and hold charts with peace messages at the polling station which could have been one of the contributing factors to a peaceful election in her community. In addition to that, the training empowered women to exercise their leadership skills and further enabled them to command respect in society. A case in point is Nakato Florence, one of the women peace advocates who operates an informal business in Wandegeya. After the elections, Florence took the initiative to promote peace among the youths including drug addicts that always gather around her business area. She reported that they were threatening to cause violence in protest against the election outcomes which they considered to be unfair. According to Florence, it was not a one-off achievement but a process of negotiation and counseling backed up by the knowledge she had acquired from the training, her efforts were later recognized by the police Officer in Charge of the area who also commended her work and also agreed to take WSR’s free toll number.

She exclaimed that, “…because of this experience, I feel respected in the area where I work”.

WOUGNET’s engagement in the empowerment of women and youth in the election processes promoted peace and active citizenship during the election period which is a fundamental key to the social, political, and economic development of Uganda.

Written by Nampiima Maria Gorret, Program Assistant; Information Sharing and Networking Program. 

How the Proposed Digital Service Tax Threatens Women’s Right of Access to Information

For any economy and its people to thrive, a fair and just taxation system must be in existence. On November 14th, 2020, the Nile Post, a popular news tabloid reported that the government of the Republic of Uganda through the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development intends to levy a new digital service tax on online audio and video content providers in the next financial year. This was announced by Moses Kaggwa, the director of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance on November 13th, 2020 while addressing attendants at the side-lines of the Forum aimed at putting the youth at the forefront of fiscal governance for a better Uganda. Kaggwa argued that the justification for the proposed digital service tax is one way to widen the country’s tax base so as to facilitate or fund its budget.

“We can amalgamate or match the transactions that have been done in the country or together with their value and we tax that base on the gross. We can have a tax linked to gross revenue from Uganda but we need corporation,” Moses Kaggwa said.

Key amongst the audio and visual content providers that will be affected by this policy if passed include; Netflix, iTunes, H.B.O., Amazon’s Prime Video, and Spotify. Unlike Over The Top (OTT) tax, the proposed digital service tax will be levied directly upon the service providers and not the end consumer of the services although, in the long run, it will be the final consumer to feel the pinch.

          

        PHOTO CAPTIONNetflix will be one of the audio and visual content providers upon which the digital service tax shall be levied. Source: Pexels

This move by the state has received criticism from a section of the public which refers to the proposed tax as unjust and unfair. Firstly, the proposed digital service tax expressly violates the “Equality” principle of a fair taxation system. This principle as explained by its proponent Professor Adam Smith who argued that a tax or tax system should be fair in its application to all tax payers. He adds that taxes should be based on an individual’s ability to pay and therefore, it is only fair that those with more income pay higher taxes than those with less. The “Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development” report by the UN Women indicates that 70% of the world’s poorest people are women with the 4.4 million women more than men earning less 1.90$ a day. WOUGNET reports that only about 37 percent of women surveyed in ten selected cities in the world, Kampala inclusive are found to be using the internet compared to 59 percent of males yet the newly adopted UN SDGS include an important pledge to harness information and ICTS to advance and empower women. This clearly shows that women are more likely to be burdened by the digital service tax as compared to men who statistically have more disposable income. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance and all stake holders ought to conduct a tax impact assessment on the proposed digital service tax because it affects women more. 

Additionally, the proposed digital service tax undermines women’s right of access to information as stipulated under Article 41 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the S.5 of the Access to Information Act of 2005. These provisions state that every individual in Uganda has right of access to information which includes that found on the internet. Considering the fact that women account for majority of the population that is under the poverty line, the proposed digital service tax is most likely to hinder women’s access to information availed by most of these digital service providers hence increasing the Digital Gender Divide. This only serves to undermine the great efforts that most stakeholders like WOUGNET have invested in ensuring that they close the gender gap in terms of access to information through use and access to the Internet. Recently while showing how the restriction of social network through the social media tax is a violation of human rights, Katerie Lakpa from WOUGNET in her article argued that sharing and receiving information freely is fundamental to democratic systems. In fact, real decisions should not be taken without relevant and accurate information. Similarly, the proposed digital service tax will only stifle the enjoyment of women’s fundamental right of accessing information availed by the affected service providers.

For these reasons, it is WOUGNET’s stand that the proposed digital service tax should not be passed because it is unreasonable, unnecessary, unfair and therefore unconstitutional. Additionally, the state should carry out an impact assessment of the proposed service tax to determine its inconsistences with civil rights and liberties.

Cover photo: PHOTO CAPTION: A woman browsing the internet. Source: Pexels

Written By: Iribagiza David

Communications Intern        

Girls in ICT Day 2020 Celebration: What does it mean for Girls in Tech

The International Girls in ICT day was celebrated on April 23, 2020, with the theme “Inspiring the Next Generations.” One would ask, what is being done to inspire the next generations of young women and girls to embrace Tech?

Information and Communications Technology [ICT] is still a critical need for girls and women. As you may all be aware, technology plays a critical role in our daily lives. It helps in setting our career path, to access information, and express views on issues or things that concern us daily. However, most women and girls join the tech field at an old age. For more women to join the ICT sectors, learning ICTs for girls should start at a young age and this will be able to prepare them to strive for ICT related jobs and courses [subjects].

When Girls join the tech field at a young age, they will become creators and designers instead of being users of tech only and they will create an inclusive environment that will give birth to more digital children.

Albeit, the presence of women in the ICT arena does not guarantee attention to gender issues because ICTs are socially constructed and impact men and women differently. Most women and girls remain excluded from the benefits of the internet and they face increasing marginalization.

When unwomenNG [@unwomenNG] wrote on the twitter page--- “Women & girls remain underrepresented in #STEM fields despite global action calls for gender balance. On #GirlsinICTDay, we must continue to tackle gender biases & stereotypes linking science to masculinity & encourage young girls to pursue courses in #STEM,”---April 23, 2020.

Eleanor Sarpong  [@Ellasarpong] replied to the above tweet and said--- “We continue to have fewer girls in #STEM across the world. We need families to encourage their girls to pursue and stay in these fields. I’ve been there and I know the power of strong mentors. We need more of them. So let's join forces !!! Happy #GirlsinICTDay #GirlsInICT2020,”---on  April 23, 2020.

However, there are still few women and girls in ICT which has been caused by factors such as digital illiteracy, limited affordability of ICT based services, lack of tech know-how and not having a degree especially in low developed countries,  however, the reality still remains that in the future, Jobs will be driven by technology and innovations.

Yet girls still study Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] at a lower rate than boys, they often feel societal pressure and cultural norms work against them while seeking employment and advancement in tech careers, they still face lack of self-confidence and suffer from feelings of inferiority, girls still lack support and understanding, girls still face cultural biases regarding their place in the society and their roles as women at home.

Girls are actually willing to join ICT fields but they are driven off by what society says and think they are, what some teachers who should be encouraging them, and uplifting them to study ICT say. Tech being a male-dominated field, girls also lack female role models and mentors to encourage and let them know that Girls too can study ICT courses and pursue careers in ICT sectors. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the parents who nurture their children believing that tech fields are only for men or boys and in case of opportunities, priorities are given to the male child to study or work.

Due to the recent outbreak of coronavirus [COVID19] which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. On March 16, 2020, the Ugandan president [Yoweri Katugga Museveni] addressed the nation and ordered the closure of all public gatherings and events for 21 days. The closure of schools which brings a total of almost 15 million young Ugandans going home was among the public gatherings mentioned to be closed during the government’s address.

With this outbreak of COVID19, many parents had to resort to homeschooling for their children with no hope of the schools opening soon. However, most of the parents are hit hardest by this pandemic which caught many unaware and not prepared for homeschooling for their children. The internet and ICT may seem the only options for parents to access relevant subjects to teach their children.

In a bid to ensure that children continue learning during this period of lockdown caused by COVID19, the Ministry of Education and Sports with the guidance of the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC), has recently developed harmonized and standardized self-study lesson packages for all core subjects for Primary and Secondary learners. This is only possible with access to the internet and ICT tools.

The majority of parents especially females may not have the required skills to use the ICT tools to access the internet and get required topics relevant for their children as many may not have the tech know-how. It is one thing to have basic ICT skills but also another thing to surf the web and get whatever information you want.

Additionally, based on the gender division of labor, many of the household chores are done by girls, and less is done by the male child which is affecting girls’ access to effective learning as most of their time is spent doing household chores.

Uganda Christian University recently announced that university students would do online examinations without considering how many of these university students actually have access to computers, whether they have digital skills and whether they live in an environment that allows ICT use in terms of infrastructures.

This pandemic has made the world realize how important ICT and the internet are for more Girls to join ICT Careers and jobs.

According to the International Telecommunication Union [ITU], in 2019, Girls in ICT Day events reached an estimated 20,000 girls but this might have not been possible this year. What does this mean for girls in ICT?

The International Girls in ICT day aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing fields of ICTs.

Even though many efforts have been done to achieve this, a lot are still seen as a struggle to overcome these barriers for more girls to study and even take up careers in tech.

During the World Wide Web Foundation celebration of its 31st birthday of the web this year [2020], the foundation released a report and cited that the web is not yet favorable for women and girls as nearly  “two billion women across the globe can’t access the web at all which deprive them of the opportunities to learn, earn and have their voices heard,” according to the 2020 Web Foundation report. With the COVID19 outbreak, the internet has been the only accessible platform to get information and learn, although the web is still not favorable for women and girls who have been hit hardest by COVID19 negative impact. The 2018 lugambo tax still continues to widen the gender digital divide and affects children’s learning while at home during this lockdown.

Experts say tech can be a lonely and sometimes an intimidating field for women. But this can be overcome by having role models, mentors, and parents encouraging their daughters to study tech subjects.

@GradeScore [@achom_lillian] wrote on her twitter explaining why the emphasis should be on girls--- ‘" Why the girls and not the boys in ICT mentorship" The world confirms that more boys are into ICTs than girls, hence the emphasis on girls. But I agree that boys need mentorship programs to respect women & girls #GirlsinICT  @maureenagena @ekisesta @UhuruTelecoms @jossiemiliza,”---April 23, 2020.

The government through the ministry of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda should be able to let everyone know what ICT companies and government agencies are doing for girls to better understand the opportunities the ICT sector holds for the future.

Girls need to be inspired and engaged for more young girls and women to take up STEM studies as a career opportunity, create awareness for a better tomorrow, bridge the gender gaps and reduce inequality.

This can only be done by:

  • Admitting the problem of gender inequality in the ICT workforce.
  • Convincing the media to develop storylines that include women characters that have ICT careers and
  • Creating communities of support for girls and young women in the ICT sector. 

The Web Foundation [@webfoundation] wrote on twitter--- “Until we close the digital gender gap, girls will not have equal opportunities to use technology, become engineers & shape the industry. On #GirlsInICT Day, join us to build a better online world for women & girls. #ForEveryone #WebWeWant,”---April 23, 2020.

For women and girls to do ICT related subjects and take up ICT careers, we should not focus on “who is” but rather “what is” to avoid saying male or female. Also, women should uplift fellow women and remember that action is asking for what you can do for others, and Multiplication is asking for what you can do with others.  

With these recommendations, I only imagine a world where more girls and young women will create and have a conducive environment for fellow women to join ICT sectors that will also have a huge impact on Uganda’s productivity.

Composed by:

Sandra Aceng - Program Officer Gender and ICT policy advocacy

What do you know about typosquatting?

What is typosquatting?

Typosquatting, also called URL hijacking, a sting site, or a fake URL, is a form of cybersquatting, and possibly brandjacking which relies on mistakes such as typos made by Internet users when inputting a website address into a web browser. Should a user accidentally enter an incorrect website address, they may be led to any URL (including an alternative website owned by a cybersquatter).[1]

The typosquatter's URL will usually be one of five kinds, all similar to the victim site address (e.g. example.com):

  • A common misspelling, or foreign language spelling, of the intended site: exemple.com
  • A misspelling based on typos: examlpe.com
  • A differently phrased domain name: examples.com
  • A different top-level domain: example.org
  • Abuse of the Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD): example.cm by using .cm, example.co by using .co, or example.om by using .om. A person leaving out a letter in .com in error could arrive at the fake URL's website.

Similar abuses:

  • Combosquatting - no misspelling, but appending an arbitrary word that appears legitimate, but that anyone could register. "Combosquatting is around one hundred times more common than typosquatting.": example-security.com
  • Doppelganger domain - omitting a period: financeexample.com (instead of finance.example.com)
  • Extra period: e.xample.com
  • Appending terms to name an intuitive name for a gripe site: example-sucks.com or examplesucks.com

Consider this scenario: 

You type the name of a website in your browser, but you accidentally misspell it. So instead of typing facebook.com, you type faceboo.com, or instead of typing twitter.com, you type twiter.com. In most cases, the mistake is harmless. You'll either get an error that the site can't be found, or the misspelled domain name will lead you to the correct one if the company has purchased and registered the incorrect name.

In other cases, however, that misspelled name could actually lead you to a site from a rival company or even to a malicious site. Now imagine that happening to your own organization's website. A report released Wednesday by Digital Shadows describes the sneaky process of typosquatting (purchasing and redirecting a misspelled domain name), how it's affecting websites for several presidential candidates, and how it can affect a company.

In its research into typosquatting, Digital Shadows discovered more than 550 fake election domains set up against the 19 Democrats and four Republicans running for president as well as Republican Party funding sites. Among these counterfeit but registered Internet domain names, 68% redirect to another domain, often from a rival candidate. For example, the address Tulsi2020.co redirects to marianne2020.com. The address elizibethwarren.com redirects to donaldjtrump.com. The address winrde.com, a misspelling of WinRed.com, a platform to raise funds for Republican candidates, redirects to ActBlue, a fundraising site for the Democratic Party.

However, typosquatting can also lead a user to a malicious site. In its research, Digital Shadows found that six domains affecting Democratic Party candidates Joe Biden, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang, as well as party funding pages, redirect to Google Chrome extensions for "file converter" or "secure browsing." If downloaded and installed, these extensions can be used to infringe on voter privacy and potentially deploy malware, according to the report.

Out of the more than 550 typosquatted domains, 66 were hosted on the same IP address and possibly operated by the same person. As Digital Shadows points out, that shows how easy and fast it can be for someone to register multiple fake domains, a problem that's likely to get worse the closer we get to the November 2020 Presidential election.

"Setting up a fake domain is easy with virtually no checks from the organization selling the address," Harrison Van Riper, a research analyst at Digital Shadows, said in a press release. "It's easy for malicious actors to dupe voters and just as easy to impersonate brands and companies to commit fraud. It's a problem we see every day."

In its report, Digital Shadows provides words of advice both for voters and for organizations to protect themselves against typosquatting and fake domains.

For voters concerned about fraud:

  • Ask someone about a suspicious site. If you think a political website looks suspicious, ask your spouse, a friend, or a colleague to check the site before you make a donation or sign up for a newsletter.
  • Confirm the validity of a political website. Look at the candidate's social media page or network. Often, candidates will post or highlight their official domain names on their social media accounts.
  • Check out official donation information. If you want to donate to a certain campaign, seek out its official donation information first. Be wary of linked websites included in unsolicited emails as that's a tactic used by malicious actors to deploy phishing pages.

For organizations concerned about their own websites:

  • Buy domains that are similar to yours. Make sure to purchase them before others swoop in. Some obvious candidates are domains that are one or two letters off from your own domain.
  • Use DNSTwister. Use a tool such as DNSTwister to generate a list of currently active domains. This information can track down domains that might already be impersonating your brand and help you come up with ideas for domain names to purchase.
  • Monitor registration activity. Monitoring the registration activity of several domains can be challenging and time-consuming. But this is one of the best ways to detect possible squatting activities. "Digital Shadows' Practical Guide to Reducing Digital Risk contains several free tools and techniques which can be used to monitor for domain registration activity," Van Riper told TechRepublic. "DNS Twist (or the web-based DNSTwister) is an excellent tool for generating domain permutations, along with checking them for registration and hosting activity. Similarly, Phishing Catcher looks specifically for domains that are hosting content on similar types of domains. These can be used to keep an eye on suspicious domains to see when MX records are added, or content starts being hosted."

Ref: WIKIPEDIATechrepublicimage

Compiled by:

Letowon Saitoti Abdi

Senior Technical Support officer