Zimbabwe Clamps Down On Social Media Use With A Cyber Crime Bill Set To Become Law
Zimbabwe has inched closer to clamping down on citizens’ use of social media platforms and will likely fish out and penalize citizens who create and share what is deemed offensive or pornographic material over outlets including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
The Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill of 2019 was passed by president Emerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet on Tuesday, representing an important step towards it becoming law. It still has to be debated and approved by parliament, in which Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF party has a majority.
Story from Quartz Africa. Story by Tawanda Karombo.
Mnangagwa said last week the bill has to be fast-tracked to protect Zimbabwe’s “cyber-space”. However, there is wide-spread sentiment the law is being pushed through to deal with potential uprisings, especially as public anger against the government’s austerity measures.
The bill has been criticized for infringing on civil liberties if it becomes law and there are fears from rights and democracy campaigners it could also strengthen any government bid to snoop on private communications of citizens. It sets out penalize people for generation and distribution of “data concerning an identifiable person knowing it to be false and intending to cause psychological or economic” harm.
The bill was first mulled under the late former leader, Robert Mugabe in 2016 and took hold in 2017 after major protests against Mugabe and economic decline using the #tajamuka, #Mugabemustgo and #thisflag banners and tags broke out in Harare.
Some Zimbabweans are also worried Mnangagwa is pushing the bill to become law so he can use it to deal with potential uprisings fueled through social media.
WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook have become key platforms for spreading information about protests in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. WhatsApp in particular, is very well used in Zimbabwe, where it accounts for nearly 50% of all internet use in the country.
Read more at Quartz Africa.