Social Media, Election fever and how to protect yourself online from your government

That social media has become the main driving force behind most elections and anti-government campaigns comes as no surprise. The dissemination of information whether by the government or by the opposition is a do-or-die for the various parties concerned as public opinion hinges strongly on how positively or negatively the citizenry views either side.

Exercise caution

  • Formulate an exit strategy must you attend that political rally. Have bottled water and a first aid kit in preparation of any eventuality.
  • Listen to the political debates with a grain of salt. Don’t believe everything you see on TV, read in the papers or online. Propagandists are busy at work on both sides of the spectrum.
  • Be 100% certain of your information before you post that expose on your Facebook or Twitter; make sure that your bwino has dried. And your source is as solid as Golola’s biceps.
  • Restock your food supplies. Who knows what the near future holds.
  • Befriend a lawyer

Gov’t is Watching You(Yes, you!)

Not so long ago, International Tech website TheVerge posted this report purporting that the Uganda government has purchased FinFisher.  This is a highly invasive form of spyware capable of remotely monitoring computers, smartphones, and other equipment in real-time. FinFisher has been sold on the open market to repressive governments.

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With the unlikely scenario that this purchase never happened when this story broke, what is to say FinFisher isn’t now snooping around our interwebs at this volatile moment in time, creating files on everyone spewing anti-government rhetoric?

Young South Sudanese by Isaac Kasamani

Young South Sudanese by Isaac Kasamani

Some ways to protect yourself online

  • Use these browser extensions to fortify your online presence: HTTPS EVERYWHERE and  Disconnect (To start with). Make your government minions work for their pay before they can access your computer.
  • Stay off free and unsecured Wi-Fi networks. When it can’t be helped, turn on your firewall, password protection in networks and turn off file sharing.
  • If you must do those exposes, invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN hides your computer’s IP address, so when State House begins hunting for you, it won’t be a walk in Centenary Park. FYI, good VPNs come with a monthly charge. Be sensible nonetheless. Defamatory sensational stories are in bad taste.
  • Download and install TOR. The Onion Router (TOR) is a ‘a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet’. This comes in handy especially for whistle-blowers who wish not to be identified contacting journalists and just about anyone who would like to be anonymous online. The downside is that all that network hopping strains internet speeds.
  • Throw your smartphone and PC in the toilet and go back to the village. Problem solved.

Tech to the Rescue (but tread carefully)

  • Use anonymous image upload-and-share websites like Imgur and  imgreview without having to sign up before sharing your sensitive images online to limit prosecution.
  • Air out your views in person between trusted friends. The government can’t touch this.
  • Download smartphone news app to keep abreast with breaking news stories.
  • Join sensible WhatsApp Groups for live information sharing but beware of scare mongers. Alternatively, join the more secure WhatsApp clone, Telegram which allows one to delete messages from both ends.
  • Unplug from the internet. Switch off your phone and the TV until this quagmire is over and done with. What’s the worst that could happen?

Photo Credit: jaros 2(Ron) via Compfight cc