Apparently, the government has an unpopular plan for Zimbabweans who use social media. The ruling party, Zanu-PF is planning to regulate the use of social so that people won’t abuse it. According to Zanu-PF’s Bulawayo provincial secretary for administration, Elifas Mashaba said:
The party wants the Government to tighten screws on cyber crimes through putting tough control measures and policies that deter people from abusing social media platforms.
We have heard this before- the government wanting to control not only social media but also the internet. And it’s not only an ongoing conversation in Zimbabwe but even world over. You might remember the President Mnangagwa’s Special advisor saying that social media needs to be regulated by the government.
The problem with trying to regulate social media (or the internet) is that it is usually translated to be an attempt to infringe the freedom of speech and expression. Many Zimbabweans are increasingly now using social media and they are voicing their own political opinions (which hardly happened before social media platforms came), which makes these platforms needed for national dialogue. Accordingly, in Zimbabwe’s case, many people will no doubt expect this (that the attempt to regulate social media), as one way of shutting people’s mouth considering that Zimbabwe is historically known to have a poor record of upholding democratic principles.
That’s why the government thought it wise to come up with the cybercrime law (which is still a bill) so that whenever it penalizes the guilty one’s it would be in the confines of the law. Hence it won’t be labeled as suppressing freedom of speech or expression one will be breaking a law. We just have to wait and see what the cybercrime law will cover but all hopes are that the essence of what social media is, won’t be taken away by the government.
The government may be justified though
But you would forgive the government for wanting to regulate social media because the fake news that’s emanating from these platforms is doing more harm. For instance, through social media people (fake news makers) are inspiring panic which is ultimately translating into the setting up of black markets in Zimbabwe. No wonder, the President wants to name and shame all those people who spread fake news.
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