The heavy use of social media to spread information among citizens, promote political messages and issuing notices during the 2018 election period in Zimbabwe is well known. WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc were some of the social media platforms that were used to achieve some ends.
This has disproportionately increased the onslaught against the social media in Zimbabwe, with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) saying that social media was used to distort the reality during the elections. I say its an “onslaught” because ZEC is not the only institution to have said something against the social media, Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe Defence Forces have had their say. Here is what ZEC Chief Election Officer said;
The major lesson learned is that political egos can affect the smooth administration of electoral processes. Further, as an electoral management body, we learned that social media is a tool which can be used to distort reality by repeating misleading and untrue statements so many times that they take on the veneer of truth. The truth is that we conducted our elections in accordance with our laws. We met regional standards and were duly acknowledged to have done so.
The problem is its hard to know which reality was distorted, maybe something truthful but unfavorable information, which ZEC thought shouldn’t have been publicized or commented on, made it conclude that social media was used to distort reality. This is just my overly subjective and unfair opinion.
I know that this is me trying to be alarmist but do you think that’s its probably a warning that the internet could be switched off during the next election period? It could be a far-fetched prospect in Zimbabwe but other African countries like Gambia and Algeria have done so. Or probably another way of discouraging the use of social media not only during the election period but anytime is to follow in Uganda’s footsteps of charging a social media tax. The East African country came up with this infamous tax to curb gossip and disinformation for the government.