Parallel Session 8: Levy on Internet Services – a Threat to Human Rights?
In recent years there have been increasing incidents of taxing popular internet services, including on social media use and voice of IP (VoIP) calls. While such measures are proposed for a variety of reasons, they could pose a significant threat to freedom of expression and make it even more difficult for people to gain access to the internet. This, in turn, can limit developing countries’ ability to harness the potential of the internet and other technologies for sustainable development. For example, in Zambia in August 2018, the cabinet approved a ZMK0.30 (USD 0.03) daily levy which will apply to VoIP calls. This follows a March 2018 directive in Uganda requiring online content providers to register and pay an annual fee of USD 20, and a July 2018, social media taxes that requires users to pay a daily levy of Uganda Shillings (UGX) 200 (USD 0.05) to access to social media platforms. In Tanzania, according to regulations also passed this year, online content service providers and producers have to pay over USD 900 to register with the state for permission to maintain their platforms.
This workshop aims to unpack the phenomenon of taxes on popular internet services, the motivations behind them, the human rights online implications, and the impact on users and economies.