Home OpinionEditorial Comment Social media monitoring chokes freedom of expression

Social media monitoring chokes freedom of expression

by commuadmin

It worrying news to hear that the government of Zimbabwe came up with a task force that is meant to monitor what people are posting on social media.
Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa was quoted in the media saying, “We have actually come up with a cyber-team that is constantly on social media to monitor what people send and receive since we cannot wish social media away.”
The statement sounds gullible as it implies that the social media monitoring team is for patriotism as she is further quoted saying, “We are also appealing to the Zimbabweans and government officials that whatever message they post on social media should be to build not to destroy the community.”
As always, such kind of moves leaves a large gap that is open to abuse by the authorities. For instance, in this case, who decides that this message is good or bad for the community?
Social media in Zimbabwe has been celebrated as a tool of democracy, where citizens have a platform to air their views and make their voices heard.
According to MISA Zimbabwe, “Minister Mutsvangwa’s remarks have a chilling effect on free expression online. The very idea that citizens are being monitored will lead to fear and self-censorship and could mark the beginning of a clampdown on social media users and activists.”
“This is an anathema to democracy, where citizens should be free to express themselves both online and offline,” it further stated.
This presents a serious debacle concerning privacy as this move presents the government with an opportunity to snoop on millions of Zimbabwe who use social media.
In that regard, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition stated that “The announcement comes at a time the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill which passed through the Senate in July 2021 is awaiting Presidential assent. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition is on record criticizing the proposed law for seeking to snoop on citizens thereby violating the right to privacy, freedom of speech as well as access to information.”
This cyber-team to monitor social serves the current regime no difference to what the setting up of a Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation ministry set up Robert Mugabe served that regime.
After all, is said and done, the government should be celebrating social media and take note of issues raised by its citizens as it represents issues on the ground.
It should be the tool that increases the effectiveness of service provision and extends the enjoyment of the social contract between the government and the citizens.
Mutsvangwa at this point just let the cat out of the bag, otherwise, Big Brother was always watching.

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