Bobi Wine’s case illustrates the power of social networking

According to what I have seen, the most popular social media platforms — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram — are all being used. Twitter is the platform I think has had the greatest impact. Twitter was the first place to feature the video of Bobi’s arrest, along with the hashtag #freebobiwine. It appeared the morning after his arrest. The video has gone viral on social media platforms and mainstream platforms.

In the last ten days alone, 60 Twitter accounts have been either created or renamed in order to promote a hashtag that has over 100,000 tweets. Four accounts have been created on Facebook.

Social media has been used to use as a tool of advocacy in order to confront Ugandan President Yoweri Mueveni, who has been at the helm for more than 30 years.

How has this online activity affected you?

Social media is unique in its ability to spread messages virally. Content sharing can reach global audiences in minutes.

The social media played a major role in drawing attention to Bobi Wine’s plight around the globe. The public has been kept informed about his court case, his arrest, and that of his coworkers and friends.

Online videos and pictures of him show him struggling with walking and talking, suggesting that he was tortured. The messages from his family were also shared and went viral, generating more support.

Personaly, I learned about this situation from a Kenyan channel on YouTube which reported the incident and tried to rally support for Bobi Wine. I was compelled to investigate further what was happening.

Social media activity has translated into physical action. South Africa, as well as neighbouring nations such as Kenya, have held concerts and rallies to call for his release.

Protests against the release of Bobi Wine in London.

The message has reached beyond Africa, thanks to social media. Even protests were held in London to call for his release. Bobi Wine has received support from international artists such as Damon Albarn of Blur and Chris Martin of Coldplay.

What is the Ugandan government doing?

Uganda’s government is unable to control social media. At the beginning of this year, a tax on social media was introduced. This means Ugandans have to pay USD$0.05 per day for popular platforms such as Twitter and WhatsApp.

It’s not surprising that the government has reacted defensively. It tried to justify its actions by accusing Bobi Wine of leading a group to attack the President and his military and Police convoys with illegal firearms and stones with the goal of destabilizing Uganda. The government is presenting itself in this manner as defending itself against violent protesters.

It has also attempted to discredit information shared online. President Museveni dismissed the information about Bobi Wine being beaten and injured as “fake” news.

Recent media reports have attempted to reinforce a generous, positive image of the Ugandan Government by saying, for example, that it would allow Bobi wine to fly abroad for medical care.

Are there any concerns when social media is used for political purposes?

The lack of gatekeeping is a major problem. Social media allows anyone to create and share sensational content. Social media’s porous nature encourages the dissemination of misinformation, disinformation, and “fake” news. It means that not all content can be or should be believed. This could harm a cause.

There’s already evidence that Bobi Wine may not be as critically ill as some social media messages suggested. Some reports claimed that Bobi had been shot by his driver. Others said he was beaten into a pulp, blinded and paralysed. Evidence has shown that Bobi Wine was able to receive visits from his family and friends, including his wife. He also wrote letters in prison.

The Ugandan Government has accused the media, and the opposition, of spreading fake stories to fuel chaos and anarchy.

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