An investigative write-up on Zimbabwe social media usage following internet shutdown
So after a week of no social media access in Zimbabwe for those who were not using VPN, the court rule and order favoured the Zimbabwean masses by giving them their social media back, unrestricted. We all know the alleged reasons for blocking social media by the government of Zimbabwe. The government has been complaining of social media abuse, through violence, spread of fake news and other immoral activities, long before its blocking of the internet and social media. This write up is an investigation of Zimbabwe social media usage following internet shutdown.
The government of Zimbabwe has for several times vowed to make sure that all
social media abusers face the full wrath of the law. Who is a social media abuser according to the government and has the social media temporary blockage ended the abuse?
According to various anti-social media speeches by some government officials, social media abuse is the following:
Sharing of wrong information and fake news- Some government officials blame social media for the spread of false information and fake news. And truly, some people are experts of crafting and spreading wrong information through social media, information about death of people. We had an issue during 2018 Zimbabwe elections, the results that were spreading through social media were different from the official results from ZEC and that made it difficult for Zimbabweans to accept official results because social media results had convinced and perhaps satified some Zimbabweans. There are many example of news, that later proved fake on social media.
Sharing abusive information- Some people share abusive information and the government is against this. The verdict becomes worse if the abused is in a position of power. I have seen people abusing people who are sick, calling them all forms of names. Who said government officials do not get sick. After the elections last year some would share abusive information of ZEC official Chigumba, social media users called it a
Chigumba challenge and comments that followed were unheard of. No form of abuse is justified.
Character assassinating- I think Zimbabwean celebrities are now used to this. Their lives seem to be on surveillance, 24 hours a day and 7 days weekly. A small mistake and they will pay with their reputation. Sharing some personal information about people on social media is never good even when there is some truth in whats being shared.
Sharing deragatory posts- Some actually share information that belittle and reduce a person to nothing. This the government also condems. Bedroom language is now spoken for free on social media and those in this practise do not care.
Government threatening social activities and information- Government threatening information is also labled abuse of social media. The government accuses people of using social media to incite violence and to subvert or overthrow the goverment officially voted for by the people. In 2017 government was at war with Evan Mawarire who ran the famous and viral #thisflag compaigns, which was against Mugabe's government.
Abuse of other social media users-These days people use social media to attack other social media users. When people two have disagreements and issues, why taking it to social media? Abusive comments are very common in social groups.
Lack of respect in general- Generally, there is no respect on social media, that is why some people now hate social media. I have seen people sharing pictures of the dead on accident scenes through social media. Unofficial pictures of women in labour by unruly nurses. Examples are endless.
Now, the question that keeps popping in my mind is whether the highlighted forms of social media abuse ended following the temporary internet and social media shutdown?
What is evident so far is that everyone is now back on social media. I can see that the number of active users on my facebook account and Linkedin have reached the normal numbers that I had before the shutdown. What I have noticed so far though is that people are no longer posting deragatory posts of government officials as much as they used to do before the shutdown. There are some people on my facebook friend list and twitter who used to comment a lot on political issues but have been silence following the internet shutdown.
However, some people are still commenting as they pleases especially when it comes to political issues. But generally people are nolonger posting political content as they used to do. Is this change a result of the internet shutdown or rather of the actions of police and army operations during the shutdown?
There are surely two possibilities. People wouldn't want to be disconnected from social media for good. Social media is for many a source of entertainment, a medium of communication and a tool for business to others. For this reason people would behave themselves to avoid being disconnected in the future.
Secondly and lastly, there were many reports of army and police brutality during the shutdown Zimbabwe compaigns, victims being those who were suspected of masterminding the protests and acts of violence. Those who unfortunately fell in the hands of the army and the police would surely behave.
As Zimbabweans, let us try to use social media responsibly, so that we continue to enjoy the benefits that it gives to our world.
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