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Over the past year, Zimbabwe has been considering and creating social media policies to address acceptable uses and minimize risks. With the introduction draft Cybercrime and Cybersecurity draft Bill.
Zimbabwe is finding out the hard way that social media is a double-edged sword. On one end, social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide direct access to the public. But unchecked, these Web 2.0 tools can do more harm than good.
Discipline and strict execution of the policies and the laws of the land may be seen as harsh implementations by many but viewed as a necessary tool by others. Some people say that overflowing severity borders on oppression and this often leads to anger of the people. However, advocates of stern application of the rules debate that harsh measures result in uncooperative citizens who will never take authority seriously.
The newly created Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation now headed by Hon Patrick Chinamasa, according to, Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba, the new ministry is a protective portfolio aimed at protecting the nation from cyber threats posed by the abuse of social media.
The Ministry, which is being headed by former Finance Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa, was a high-security brief given the gravity of the threat posed by social media abuse said Mr Charamba.
He said the appointment of Cde Chinamasa to the portfolio was informed by his rich history as a lawyer since there was a need to develop laws to deal with cybercrime and set up new structures in that area.
Social media is often viewed as the main tool for change, for example, Twitter was responsible for the Arab Spring. And, Facebook has long been a thorn in many government officials’ sides especially as the tech company gains continues to expand its footprint and its influence. The social network currently has 1.6 billion users worldwide.
Mr Charamba said the Ministry comes in the wake of social media mischief aimed at causing instability in the country.
“I want to give these words from the President. He said that Ministry, one, it’s new, will help us in nailing those who do mischief using cyberspace.”
“He (President Mugabe) specifically made reference to Russia, he made reference to China, and he made reference to the Koreans as countries who have done exceedingly well in terms of ensuring some kind order and lawfulness in that area.”
Taking the example given by Charamba, the China government is devotion to censorship. And they (China) employs millions of people to censor online media. But China has blocked both Facebook and Twitter since 2009 when citizens used it to organize protests that turned into riots. The only place in the country where you can access Facebook is a specific zone in the city of Shanghai, or Hong Kong, which basically has its own government.
The North Korean government officially banned Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in April. As it is, very few of the country’s citizens have Internet access, instead they are only able to see a government-sanctioned intranet. North Korea’s restrictions actually extend to South Korean websites as well. But, there have been a few clues to alternative social media sites for North Koreans.
But the success of social media as a way of connecting protestor is causing many governments to shut down these networks, either for a short period of time, or indefinitely.
“He then spoke about the structures to make sure that the Ministry then takes a workable form. And of course, to use his (President Mugabe) words again, it’s called a protective Ministry, which means to protect the interests of the State.”
He also dispelled social media reports suggesting that the Ministry was useless and was some kind of demotion for Cde Chinamasa.
“So the mischief makers be warned. It is actually a very strategic responsibility that the Minister has been given. He has been given that responsibility precisely because he has legal skills. It’s a new area that needs to develop a body of law.”
Even if these spying operations were only limited to suspects in Social Media Abuse, advocates warn that users should be concerned about the ways in which their data will be retained and interpreted by law enforcement.
Pardon has been a technology enthusiast his entire life and has spent the better part of last decades in information technology and security, and he writes with an aim to remove some of the “mysticism” from the cyber world. He’s the Editor at Techunzipped. Away from the keyboard, you’re likely to find him playing with the latest gadgets or the latest Game.