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Social Media use Explodes in Cameroon as Government fails to Monitor the Issue

Cameroon's government has used several laws to crack down on mobile and online communications, including a 2014 anti-terrorism law and the newly revised penal code

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Social media use has exploded in Cameroon, as have the government’s efforts to police it.

These members of the Presbyterian church Bota in Limbe, southwestern Cameroon are praying for three local men: Fomusoh Ivo Feh, Afuh Nivelle Nfor and Azah Levis Gob.

They were convicted by a military court this month after allegedly sharing an SMS joke about recruitment for the Boko Haram terrorist group. The proceedings were closed to the public and Amnesty International and local rights groups condemned the conviction.

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Among those gathered at the church is Tabot Timothy, a 22-year-old law student at the University of Douala-Cameroon.

“It was normal for a thorough investigation to be carried out to ascertain that these guys were joking. It is unjust,” Timothy said. “Thorough investigations were not carried out.”

Cameroon’s government has used several laws to crack down on mobile and online communications, including a 2014 anti-terrorism law and the newly revised penal code.

Barrister George Marcellin Tsoungui, a member of the Cameroon Bar Council says prison time of six months to two years and fines of $10,000 to $20,000 await those who use electronic media to propagate information without proof. He says the sanctions can be doubled if it is found that the communications were intended to destabilize social peace.

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Police detained a journalist in January after he erroneously reported on social media that President Paul Biya had visited soldiers in the north.

In March, police arrested people accused of sharing a leaked confidential letter on social media. The letter was from the country’s minister of defense and said that Boko Haram terrorists had arrived in Yaounde.

The country’s National Communications Council has the power to suspend journalists and seal media houses.

The council is investigating 20 complaints of what it calls “social media blackmail” submitted by senior state officials. One of the complaints concerns a minister who was seen on Facebook dancing to the music of Franko, an artist whose songs were banned by the government.

Despite the arrests, social media and mobile messaging apps and networking sites are increasingly popular in Cameroon, and are used by opponents and supporters of the government alike.

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“Social media is inevitable. It’s like a devil that you are called upon to live with. It is difficult to suppress it. It’s just going to be like throwing water on a duck’s back,” said Nelson Tawe, a social media consultant. “Social media has come to stay there is no way you can suppress it. I think that government is going to have an uphill task to succeed in what it is trying to do.”

Cameroon is not the only country getting jittery about the fast form of communication.

Several countries in Africa have taken similar measures, and a new report from the Washington-based Freedom House says internet freedom has declined globally for the sixth consecutive year. (VOA)

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Twitter Accounts Linked to Alex Jones, Infowars Removed

Infowars has said the moves are intended to sabotaging the site just weeks before the midterm elections.

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Alex Jones, Infowars
FILE - Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist, walks the corridors of Capitol Hill after listening to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Twitter has removed some accounts thought to be used to circumvent a ban on conspiracy-monger Alex Jones and Infowars, the company said Tuesday.

A Twitter spokesman confirmed that the accounts had been removed but provided no additional comment. The company says it usually does not discuss specific accounts.

 

Twitter, Infowars
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speaks outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., after listening to Facebook and Twitter executives testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on foreign influence operations and their use of social media, Sept. 5, 2018. Twitter said Sept. 6 that it was permanently banning right-wing conspiracy theorist Jones and his “Infowars” show for abusive behavior.. VOA

 

Twitter permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope in early September. It said it based that action in reports of tweets and videos that violated its policy against abusive behavior.

The company said it would continue to evaluate reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with @realalexjones or @infowars and would take action if it finds content that violates its rules or if other accounts are used to try to circumvent their ban.

Alex Jones, Infowars
Alex Jones (C), an American conspiracy theorist and radio show host, is escorted out of a crowd of protesters after he said he was attacked in Public Square on July 19, 2016, in Cleveland, during the second day of the Republican convention. (VOA)

Other tech companies, including PayPal, YouTube, Apple and Spotify, have limited or banned Jones’ activities on their sites.

Infowars has said the moves are intended to sabotaging the site just weeks before the midterm elections.

Also Read: Twitter Bans Alex Jones For Violating Its Policy

On Twitter and elsewhere, Jones has done such things as describe survivors of a shooting in Parkland, Florida, “crisis actors” and saying the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 was fake. He had about 900,000 followers on Twitter. Infowars had about 430,000. (VOA)