Govt warns against social media abuse

Harare Bureau
THE Government has warned that anyone caught generating or sharing abusive and subversive material on social media will be disconnected from using the country’s mobile networks.

In a statement yesterday, the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) said anyone caught on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with ruthlessly.

Further, the telecommunications representative body reminded the public that perpetrators using sim cards registered in Zimbabwe can easily be identified.

This followed deliberate proliferation of subversive messages on WhatsApp by some rogue elements bent on destabilising the country. “We would like all Zimbabweans to know that we are completely against this behaviour and therefore advise that anyone generating, passing on or sharing such abusive and subversive materials, which are tantamount to criminal behaviour, will be disconnected and the law will take its course”, said Potraz. Potraz, together with all telecommunications service providers in Zimbabwe, have noted with concern, the gross irresponsible use of social media and telecommunication services made through our infrastructure and communication platforms over the past few days.”

Social media platforms were also awash with fake reports meant to fuel violent confrontations across the country with reports that Choppies supermarket in Chitungwiza, and other parastatals had been burnt down by angry protestors.

Another fake image of a burning train also went viral on the WhatsApp platform as part of the harmful messages circulating on the social platform with intentions to provoke emotions among the public. The telecoms body also issued stern warnings to individuals taking advantage of social media to further their regime change agenda. ‘‘We are therefore warning members of the public that from the date of this notice any person caught in possession of, generating, sharing or passing on abusive, threatening, subversive or offensive telecommunications messages on Whatsapp or any other social media messages that may be deemed to cause despondency, incite violence, threaten citizens and cause unrest will be arrested and dealt with accordingly in the national interest.”

Several people yesterday failed to report for duty at their work stations following instructions posted on WhatsApp and Facebook by some unidentified people.

Meanwhile, Information, Communication and Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has said Government had nothing to do with yesterday’s jamming of the social media platform Whatsapp.

He said such a move would mean that Government had also participated in the purported shutting down of the country.

Minister Mandiwanzira’s comments follow allegations by some sections of the society that Government yesterday interfered with social platforms such as Whatsapp and Internet services to stop people from mobilising ahead of the stay away.

Minister Mandiwanzira said instead, his ministry had been under pressure since last year from all the network operators to ban social networks such as Whatsapp, Viber and Skype arguing that they were eating into their revenue collections.

“Since December last year, this ministry has been under immense pressure from mobile network operators in this country for us to ban over the top, services like Whatsapp, Skype, Viber and the like because the operators are claiming that these over the top services are eating into their revenue, and yet they have not spent any resource in building their networks,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.

He said it was the ruling Government that resisted that call to ban those types of social media imploring the network providers to be innovative. “Instead of people coming up with all these falsehoods that Government has interfered with over the top services, they should give us credit for refusing this insistence by operators to ban over the top services,” he said.

Minister Mandiwanzira said Government has no intention to ban the use of social media in Zimbabwe, but said the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) had a responsibility of guarding against its abuse by some elements of the society.

“There are elements, which have been abusing social media by sending information to do with how to make bombs, how to kill, pornography and even child pornography and the regulator has a responsibility of warning people of such abuse of tools like social media,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.

He said the fact that POTRAZ released its statement warning such elements against such acts of abuse on a day some sections of the society had called for a protest through the social media was a mere coincidence.


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