African governments have not had the best relationship with social media and very few of them have tried to understand it.
The South African government is reportedly thinking about regulating social media in the country to put a stop to what it calls the spread of misinformation. Yes, African governments aren't getting any better at this freedom of speech thing.
Speaking at a press conference for the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster in Pretoria last week, South Africa's State Security Minister David Mahlobo said the government was looking to curb the spread of "fake news" and scams on social media.
“The false narrative in the social media; it’s one of the challenges that South Africa faces,” Mahlobo said, according to HTXT. “We are contemplating to regulate the space. Even the best democracies that are revered, they regulate the space."
The minister did admit that putting social media regulation in place would be challenging, to say the least, given that there would be extensive criticism from various quarters - and rightly so too.
African governments have not had the best relationship with social media and very few of them have tried to understand it and take advantage of what it has to offer.
Every time an African government has tried to 'regulate' social media, it has always ended in the citizens of that country receiving the short end of the stick and human rights being thrown out of the window.
There is no denying that the spread of misinformation and fake news stories on social media can be problematic, but there are better ways to mitigate the effects of that, not policing the digital space.
As consumers and users of social media too, we are responsible to fact-checking what we see online and making sure that we do not give governments reason to act against positive interests.