FRANCE President Emmanuel Macron is planning to introduce a law to ban fake news on the internet.
The French president wants new legislation for social media platforms. He plans to present the new law shortly in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he believes threatens liberal democracies. The new legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Websites, under the new law, would have to declare their financiers. The amount of money for such sponsored content would be capped. Mr Macron’s concerns resonate with the Zambian political landscape where social media (Facebook and WhatsApp) are being grossly abused. Politically active individuals with ulterior motives have taken to social media to malign their rivals – real and perceived. What is worrying, however, is the extent to which some people have resorted to manufacture stories, including using headed paper of the presidency and some of his aides. Of late, some people have been circulating fake statements on Facebook and WhatsApp alleging that the President had made changes to Cabinet. Amos Chanda, the President’s special assistant for press and public relations, has had his template forged and accused of having made the announcement, either announcing the President would hold a press conference or had made adjustments to Government. Cabinet ministers have also not been spared by some social media platforms. This is a very dangerous trend because some citizens depend on social media for information on almost a daily basis. Some people have specialised in using social media to spread falsehoods about the State or State House to deliberately destabilise government operations. So far, they have succeeded in causing alarm and despondency because the law has been very tolerant. However, these social media misfits have chewed more than they can bite because the long arm of the law must reach out to them wherever they may be. This is the time that the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority and the Zambia Police Service have to prove that they are able to handle such matters. Until one or two people who have been lying about State House making changes are found, this social media madness will continue. That is why State House has urged the police and agencies like ZICTA to quickly bring to book people abusing social media because the misdeed is criminal. Authoring, publishing or uttering false information is criminal and should not be tolerated by law enforcement agencies. The Zambia Police Service has a fully-fledged cyber crime unit to deal with social media sycophants. We are a flourishing democracy, but that should not give people the freedom to deliberately abuse social media, hence the need to bring the culprits to book. Like any developing country, we should be using social media to communicate information and share ideas that are beneficial to an individual, as opposed to abusing it. Responsible use of social media includes research, spreading the gospel and entertainment. Abuse of social media poses a great danger to the nation.