Misuse Of Social Media By Miscreants Needs To Be Guarded Against…

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By Amin Kef Sesay

It is very reassuring that Sierra Leoneans beyond tribe, region, politics and profession have  generally risen up to speak out against the misuse of social media platforms such as whatsapp by some people to propagate hate messages and fake news with the potential to cause unrest and violence.

This has been made possible with the increase in the use of smart phones by the masses which has enabled Sierra Leone to join the global communications revolution; with social media spreading its wings far and wide among the masses.

This spread has its positive effects on society by way of contributing immeasurably to awareness, connectivity, education, business, banking, etc.

However, while acknowledging the benefits of digital empowerment of the masses, it has also brought challenges with some of its reckless abuse posing serious dilemma of striking the balance between freedom of speech and expression, awareness, empowerment and the obligation to prevent mobile platforms are not used to be vehicles to commit crime, incite hatred, provoke terrorism, extremism, promote money laundering, commit cyber-crimes, etc.

As such, whilst it is undeniable that social media has brought the world and its citizens tremendous communications, scientific, technological, educational, health, business, cultural and relationship gains by enabling people across time and space to reach other instantly, its greatest disadvantage is its misuse by miscreants, trouble makers and all kinds of wickedly minded political malcontented people to wreak havoc on the lives of others and society at large.

Talking about the abuse, politics comes into mind. Social media is as prone to misuse as your computer is to the virus, as seen recently in the new practice of the Adebayors and Austin Johnnys to defame people, community, religion, etc, through social media.

Notably, in our country, social media is being increasingly used to defame. The most affected people through are politicians and celebrities who have been punished brutally by social media abusers.

Alongside defamation goes spreading of false and unreliable information through people creating fake email accounts of celebrities and spreading untrue stories about them. Marriages and relationships have been ruined by people posting nude and compromising pictures.

Miscreants morph videos and pictures to cause sensational mental images in order to provoke riots by vested political interests. Such provocation leads to hate and revenge messages.

The danger is that, if there are no regulations or limitations on social media, the repercussions could be harmful to both individuals and society.

Thus, many people are concerned that with the growing use of and access to social media, the law governing the media is not equipped to deal with the consequences of its misuse that result in unacceptable social behavior.

As such, there are many who opine that the Government because of its commitment to respect freedom of speech and expression, freedom of choice and responsibility towards the right to privacy of the citizen must be equally cognizant of the mandate of the Constitution where the freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions relating to public order, decency and morality, and in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

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