MPs Want Law to Control Social Media

SOME parliamentarians are eager to control the use of social media such as Facebook by the public through tightening the law, amid claims that internet platforms are being abused to tarnish some political leaders’ images.

The discussion over the use of social media in Namibia will be tabled in the National Assembly by Nudo secretary-general Arnold Tjihuiko when the house resumes sitting next month.

Tjihuiko confirmed this to The Namibian last week, adding that he had cancelled his initial plan to table the motion last year because it was too late.

“It’s not the system but the way people use it. I will table the motion as soon as we come back. The aim is not to restrict the use of the sites,” he said.

The motion on the use of social networks comes a week after The Namibian reported that some Swapo members wanted the leadership of their youth league to be dismissed because of their alleged negative posts on Facebook.

Tjihuiko is, however, not in favour of strictly controlling social networks but will table the motion to support that mechanisms should be proposed to ensure that social networks are used cautiously and not abused.

According to Tjihuiko, Facebook is a good media outlet and it should not be seen as a “bad thing”.

He also said government can use the social platform to engage citizens, especially young people on State programmes.

Last year, Tjihuiko was quoted in the Namibian Sun newspaper, saying that “Facebook and Twitter are being misused, especially by our children who post almost anything on these sites, including peoples’ confidential information”.

“These posts have a negative impact on the psychological well-being of our people, particularly children,” he said, alleging that some posts have led to individuals committing suicide, while others withdrew socially.

Although the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, is one of the few parliamentarians who use Facebook to engage the public about ministerial issues, he believes social media as a new element needs to be controlled.

“Regulations of any sort should be able to create standards of what can be considered malicious. Regulation is needed to prevent the misuse of social media,” Schlettwein said, adding that the legislative piece should be enacted in such a way that it adapts to technological change.

Even though most government ministries have websites, although some of them are dormant, Schlettwein said there will not be harm if each ministry sets up a Facebook page to communicate with the people.

Swapo member of parliament Kazenambo Kazenambo has, on several occasions, spoken out about the (mis)use of social media, especially Facebook.

Speaking in the NA at the end of last year, Kazenambo said many Namibians are using Facebook to malign and denigrate others, a practice he said borders on the infringement of the fundamental human rights.

He said many Namibians are attacking each other, mentioning things they would not be able to stand by if challenged in court.

“Last year (2012), my lawyers and I were about to sue someone, because of things that were said about me on ‘bookface’ [Facebook], as our President [Hifikepunye Pohamba] has called it, but because of the spirit of reconciliation that came after the Swapo Party congress, we decided to let go,” Kazenambo said.

Two weeks ago, the SPYL leadership survived another attempt to fire them from the party.

Documents show that the youth wing has been skating on thin ice after a decision was also taken last year by the Swapo leadership to ban the SPYL from posting anything relating to government or Swapo on Facebook.

The youth were also told not to release public statements without going through the party’s secretary general, Nangolo Mbumba.

The SPYL leadership claims Facebook is being abused by other young people and that they reported this fact to the party leadership but no action has been taken yet. They further claim that Facebook posts are being used to victimise some of their leaders.

Government is also working on an internet law that will tighten the use of new media as part of the e-governance policy.

Source : The Namibian