It feels like not a month passes by without a government official complaining about social media. And for the month of December, we have another entry in our Govt Officials Fed Up With Social Media journal. This time it’s Honourable Cain Mathema who apart from complaining about social media also happens to be the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage.
It seems general consensus within government is now that laws that govern social media etiquette are now necessary and Minister Mathema also supports this notion:
That is why in Britain and the United States they are crafting laws to control the use of social media. Those attacking others through social media must not be allowed to do willy-nilly. That is unhealthy. They must stop doing that.
It is freedom that most people are abusing. Don’t use social media to attack other people that is totally unacceptable and it’s horrible. It is a disease that is developing among our people and I think our courts should do more to protect us as citizens.
What’s happening in the UK & US
In the UK there’s been a lot of talk about putting some regulation in place when it comes to bullying and sexual exploitation on social media platforms. These proposed laws seem to have more to do with children than adults though and it will be interesting to see how they can be enforced once they are put in place.
In the USA, I haven’t seen any form or regulation being discussed apart from the regulation of how social media companies use the data of users. The whole concept of Freedom of Speech seems to have originated there and Americans are more fond of it. Getting that regulation passed nationwide would also be a huge issue so I don’t really see that being a thing any time soon.
Is there a social media problem in Zim?
I think to say there’s a problem would be a fair observation. People on social media don’t hold back when attacking and belittling other people and maybe it’s because when people are typing things from their phones and computers there’s some desensitization and things they would never say in person are just said recklessly.
There’s also the problem of fake news to contend with and even though the government has tried to be patient I won’t necessarily be shocked when the laws are put in place and they are harsh. Yes, there are concepts such as freedom of speech but it seems that freedom of speech does not take into consideration respect or lack thereof.
Most likely we won’t be big fans of whatever legislation is put in place but maybe, just maybe if people on social media did not always resort to wild and harsh attacks we wouldn’t be heading down this path.
What makes us uneasy about laws and social media?
Laws are made by people who hold influence and though the fact that social media regulation is on the way is not terrifying what is unsettling is the fact that for a long time, the Zimbabwean government has not been the biggest fan of free speech. Because that’s been the case, one can’t help but feel as though this law could end up being abused to ensure that no one speaks freely when the government messes up.