Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Communications Commission-UCC has told the Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee of parliament that they cannot verify and confirm the ownership and authenticity of the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake.
The committee chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu, is currently investigating MP Zaake for the alleged misconduct and use of unparliamentary language against the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita Among.
In their submission to the committee, Abudu-Sallam Waiswa, the Head of Legal and Compliance at UCC said that Facebook and Twitter are over-the-top applications provided by technology firms based in the United States of America (USA).
‘Whereas Twitter and Facebook do obtain similar identification information about their account holders at the point of account opening, the Commission does not have direct access to their registers of such information. Due to the different in jurisdiction, a court order is required to be presented to Twitter or Facebook to provide this information,” said Waiswa in part.
He added that whereas the Commission has acquired different technical capabilities to facilitate the implementation of its regulatory mandate under the Uganda Communications Act, 2013, the respective system to facilitate such assessment independently is currently undergoing technical upgrades and therefore not available.
The current probe by the committee follows a complaint raised by the Bardege-Layibi Division MP Martin Ojara Mapenduzi on the floor of parliament in which he proposed to move a motion for Zaake’s removal from the parliamentary commission, the top most organ of the House.
He noted that Zaake’s outburst on social media about the Deputy Speaker was in breach of the code of conduct for a Member of Parliament particularly a requirement to conduct themselves in a manner, which will maintain and strengthen the public trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament.
“…last week, the nation woke up to a rant by a Member of this House, a Commissioner of Parliament, the honourable Zaake Francis through his known social media handles where he insulted the integrity of this House and above all, the integrity of the Office of the Speaker,” Mapenduzi said in relation to a tweet on Zaake’s social media handle.
MP Mapenduzi further complained formally before the committee and tabled a printed picture of Zaake’s alleged post on Facebook.
According to UCC, the Facebook page ‘Zaake Francis Butebi’ exists and is associated with the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Waiswa told MPs that the Facebook account is verified by Facebook.
On the other hand, he informed the committee that no information has been obtained about the Twitter account @ZaakeFrancis since the alleged tweet is not on the account.
Katuntu asked UCC officials whether the Twitter account in question was still active and Micheal Bamwesigye, the UCC Head of IT and Security said that it was still active and read out the different tweets made in the past few days.
The committee further demanded the Clerk to Parliament to avail MP Zaake’s official file to confirm his email address and when opened, the file indicated that Zaake revealed three email addresses with email@example.com as his personal contact and firstname.lastname@example.org as the next of kin 1st person.
The email address: email@example.com identified by UCC to be associated with the Facebook account is also indicated in the data at parliament as MP Zaake’s next of kin 2nd person.
Isaac Otimgiw, the Padyere County MP raised concern about UCC’s failure to authenticate social media accounts yet the country seeks to address the misuse of the same accounts.
However, Katuntu said that it was careless to require UCC to explain what they are able to do and what they can’t. He said that it is important for the committee not to expose UCC.
Samuel Opio, the Kole North MP also raised concern about the information provided by UCC regarding Facebook which the entity confirmed as blocked as the evidence tabled before Parliament and the committee is a post from Facebook.
He questioned the admissibility of the evidence by MP Mapenduzi considering that UCC says that Facebook is a blocked site.
The committee resolved that they would have an in-house discussion on the matter.