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Zim tries to curb social media ahead of elections

Zim tries to curb social media ahead of elections

Zimbabwean authorities are struggling to contain information disseminated through social media platforms ahead of the 30 July elections.

Four people have arrested for alleged abuse of social media, according to local police.

Senior Assistant Commissioner Erasmus Makodza said last week that authorities are investigating reports of hate speech via social media.

Makodza was quoted in state media as saying, "So far, four people have been arrested for hate speech and falsehoods since the election season began. We are already making investigations on certain cases that have been reported to us. We need more resources to equip the police so as to function efficiently."

Utoile Silaigwana, Chief Elections Officer at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said last week Friday that the spreading of false information through Over the Top (OTT) services "is an abuse of social media platforms".

There are added concerns that a crackdown on social media will also lead to lower data consumption, particularly at a time when the country's industry regulator Potraz (Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) anticipates a spike in data usage as interest in the elections grows.

"The year 2018 is also expected to witness growth in telecom revenues, largely driven by data and internet usage. Upcoming elections are likely to spur the usage of social media and data services, thus increasing the volume of internet usage," Potraz said in a report on the sector released this month.

In a reminder to authorities, the Media Institute of Southern Africa stated: "the sharing of information should not be criminalised during the electoral cycle". It argues that is in "everyone's interest for factual information to be shared" through social media platforms.

WhatsApp and Facebook already account for nearly half of all internet traffic in Zimbabwe, according to data released by Potraz.


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