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Can We Use Twitter to Protect Human Rights in Uganda (and America)?

By Wayan Vota on January 23, 2017

Since at least 2009, Uganda has experienced a polarized media discourse on sexual minority rights. Politicians and prominent citizens have questioned the ability homosexuals to enjoy rights that are indisputable for other Ugandan citizens, most notably rights to privacy, health and indeed life itself, culminating in the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014.

Social media platforms like Twitter, are central discussion spaces for this issue – both for and against equal rights for all Ugandan citizens. Therefore, could it be a tool to supply the domestic public with positive counter-narratives and increase support for sexual minority rights?

In Twitter4HRs promotion, Cecilia Strand studied the Twitter communication activity of Ugandan sexual minority rights networks during the 2016 Ugandan general election and came to an interesting conclusion.

Twitter is actively used as a tool for political commentary on both news media coverage of sexual minority issues, and more importantly, a platform for discussing the political candidates’ positioning of themselves in relation to rights issues. Twitter provides minority groups important access to public space otherwise denied on traditional media platforms.

From Uganda to the USA

Sadly, the learnings from Uganda are now relevant to the USA. On Friday, a new president was sworn in who openly disparages all minorities’ rights, and often calls for their persecution. A president who has shown how powerful Twitter can be to excite and motivate those who would deny equality for all.

It is time for us to learn from Ugandans, to take our social media expertise honed in other countries, and bring it to the USA, a country now run by an African-style strongman who has a cabinet that questions Africa’s relevance to the USA.

The time for mocking is over, its now time to act.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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