Hopes are high that recurrent and growing ills on social media in Cameroon and Africa, could be a thing of the past in no distant future.
As a matter of fact, no one needs to be told that since the advent of social media, many have been using them as channels where tribalism, misinformation and obscene publications as well as all forms of violent content including unsolicited pornographic content and personal information are freely served whoever cares to see and hear. A near uncontrollable tool for freedom of expression which many are unfortunately using as a weapon of war, propaganda and threat with women, girls and celebrities being affected the most. Observably, it has the good, the bad and the ugly face.
The depth to which citizens have gone with the poor use of the rather strong socio-economic development tool leaves some skeptics shivering how order could be instilled. Especially in a country and continent where most people claim to master their rights forgetting that they go with responsibilities. That is why someone in an accident scene would prefer to snap or videotape a fellow citizen agonising in pain and upload the shocking content on the social media. A love affair which turns soar is replayed on social media from scandalous photos, videos and personal information served the public by their political or other opponents. The trend of events with the social media is utterly disgusting!
The just-ended two-day international conclave in Yaounde which held on the theme, “The Challenge of Social Media Regulation: Modalities of Collaboration Between African Media Regulators and Digital Platforms,” is easily perceived as takeoff in solving a deep-rooted social ill. The fact that representatives of digital platforms like Meta, which hosts social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as Snapchat and Tik Tok, took part in the forum alongside African media regulators, raises hopes that tomorrow could be better. The breadth and depth of discussions at the Yaounde meeting rekindled hopes that something could change, if the resolutions and promises are respected.
For instance, deciding to increase their monitoring actions with the view to establishing a think-tank between the African Communication Regulatory Authority Network and digital platforms, sets the stage for partnership and vigilance; cardinal tools for effective monitoring of the social media which keep evolving with fast ICTs revolutions. For one thing, the African regulators and other stakeholders left Yaounde with a shared view of the dangerous consequences of falsehood through digital platforms and the necessity for a common regulatory approach to social media content. This obviously explains why they pledged to tackle common issues and challenges relating particularly to social media regulation, media literacy and the fight against disinformation, hate speech, child protection and vulnerable groups.
To attain much-needed success, awareness-raising and sanctions must be integrated. Coming together to devise a feasible regulation mechanism for the use of social media networks to ensure that African cyberspaces are not breeding grounds for hate speech, defamation and disinformation, was evidently a laudable initiative. Follow up is very important and holding regular, frank and institutionalised dialogue between African media regulators and global digital platforms would keep the regulator permanently alert on the growing ill. This would ensure that the media environment in which African citizens evolve gives them access to expression, creativity and innovation, but also protects them from information disorder and digital risks such as disinformation, pornography and attacks on human dignity. It might sound difficult, looking at the extent of exaggerated freedom of social media users, especially in publishing or propagating what is ugly and sometimes fake. But determination and synergy of all actors can do the trick. After all, those who are constantly innovating their monitoring tactics and gears are succeeding. Developing a complete system of laws and regulations, a highly efficient enforcement, a stringent supervision and an effective supporting systems, like some have done elsewhere to rise above the abuses, would ward off danger within and without. Cameroon and Africa need to establish government sovereignty on cyberspace and data and put in place national standards for cyber security and data protection. This will be regulation built on the rights of citizens and in the interest of all and sundry. It should be made a development tool and not a weapon of character destruction! What i...