Experts say state government’s decision to go on with the social media regulation is a step moving South Africa towards a dictatorial regime.
South Africa’s Minister of State Security David Mahlobo warned South Africans of a possible social media regulation which according to him, would help to fight the rise of online scams and fake news on social media.
The minister said false narrative in the social media poses as one of the challenges South Africa is facing and that the planned measures would also go after misleading photo-shopped images.
Reacting to this, experts and organizations say citizens would reject government’s attempts to censor the internet because it would place a limit to their freedom and is against the Constitution in undermining freedom of speech.
“This is a part of an ongoing narrative that government has in wanting to gain some level of control on speech in the online environment. It’s part of a long thread of government to place more control over the internet,” Citizens reported an IT commentator Arthur Goldstuck saying.
Government was blaming and “looking to beat” the social media for opinions aired against it on various platforms…Yet the most flagrant example was the ANC, where there was a scandal that hit them, that they paid for misinformation to be shared on social media, he added.
Minister Mahlobo had while addressing the media on the issue, acknowledged the fact that this decision by the government would likely draw a wave of criticism and fears of stifling human rights, however, he noted that social media regulation was the best way to go in bringing media sanity.
“Social media regulation is the way to go, even the best democracies … regulate ‘social media’, said the 45-year-old minister who made it clear that his department would be discussing how to actually go about the regulation.
Touching on areas where the regulation will centre, Mahlobo also spoke on terrorism, saying that South Africa was not an exception when it came to being a target of terrorists.
“We are committed to ensure that our country remains relatively safe and free of any attempts to destabilize it. Joint operations of all intelligence community structures will continue as well as the sharing of information critical to countering any threats that is identified,” he said.
Goldstuck however argued that last year, South Africa had voted alongside China and Russia against the United Nations resolution on human rights on the internet, which affords privacy and freedom of expression.
“And that shocked the world. It’s in fact a disgraceful track record in negating freedom of expression.
“This goes against freedom of expression, and that’s enshrined in the Constitution.”
Similarly, Right2Know campaign’s Mark Weinberg noted that government’s move to censor the internet is a clear indication that it heard the voices of the people but did not want to listen.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga also said that the regulation would lead to a state where government would think on behalf of citizens.
And it would be the road to dictatorship, he said, adding that South Africans were intelligent enough to know fake news when they saw it.