Abuse social media at own peril

Posted by Ben Hadley on 2018-08-10 12:21:00 | Views: 7 |

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Abuse social media at own peril

The period before, during and after the harmonised elections of 30 June 2018, has been a period marred with abuse of social media and the proliferation of fake news that has been spread with reckless abandon on all social media channels.   The messages had the potential to set Zimbabwe ablaze as seen on 1 August 2018 and this was despite the fact that the President elect ED Mnangagwa had continually emphasised on the need for free and peaceful elections.  

On 1 August 2018, a day after the much marvelled peaceful elections, the world witnessed the ugly nature of abusing social media to incite violence.  The leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), through social media, spread false and fake news declaring themselves as winners of the harmonised elections even  though the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had not yet announced half of the election results.   The MDC Alliance leaders urged its people to convene at their party Headquarters to celebrate their self-imposed victory a situation that led to chaos in the city centre, which led to distraction of property and unnecessary loss of life.

The propagation of fake news such as "Job Sikhala Abducted and possible murdered", fake pictures of Kenyan people beaten up and passed off as Zimbabwean citizens" and burnt up houses implied to be acts of political violence in an obviously free and peaceful electoral environment, should be propagated at one's peril.  Obviously, people think that because they use social media with pseudonyms they are protected by being faceless.  People should be warned that though it might seem that there has been a delay in the enactment of the Cyber Crime and Cyber Security Bill into Law, with the new dispensation and the bottlenecks removed, one should mind what they pass on social media as fact.

The Bill once enacted into law, seeks to criminalise certain illegal content in line with regional and international best practices.  The reality of the effects of social media is so grave that if left unattended it can do more harm than good.  People have taken advantaged of its uncapped nature and have abused social media causing serious damage to property and life.  The world watched and witnessed the destruction and fall of nations due to social media abuse, and Zimbabwe is enroute to protect its citizens, country wealth and infrastructure from social media abuse in line with such countries as China, Saudi Arabia and Russia who have chosen to protect their culture, country, their people and peace through regulation of social media networks.

The Bill once made into law will provide for and consolidate cyber related offences with regard to the declaration of rights under the constitution and public and natural interest to establish a cyber-centre and to provide for its functions, provide for investigation and collections of evidence of cyber-crime to provide for admissibility of electronic evidence for such offences.  Needless to say, however, those perpetrators of violence through social media once caught in the act either by video or audio can be brought before the courts of law to answer for their crimes.  Cyber-criminal law in Zimbabwe is provided for mainly in Chapter VIII of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23).

Cyber-Crime also covers such crimes as child pornography, cyber fraud and even human trafficking.  Cases of card cloning in Zimbabwe have hit the shops and food outlets hard and more people are at risk being duped of their hard earned cash.  Also children are being exposed to illicit material on social media, an indication that there is need for social media regulation.
Citizen journalism aided by social media has also taken away the issue of media ethics by not censoring their online publications and or taking the time to verify their issues before printing.  News Day media house today was forced to make a retraction of a story after it published an article claiming that the MDC Alliance had filed their election dispute case, and they claimed their story was based on facts that they had found on Twitter.  Social media as a source of news has proven not to be reliable due to many false and fake publications that are found online.   

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