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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

Facebook logo, VOA

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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‘Delete’ Facebook, says WhatsApp co-founder amid Cambridge Analytica scandal

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 but Acton remained with the company for several years

Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook alleged to be leaking user's information to governement. Pixabay
  • Brian Acton asked users to delete Facebook
  • It was due to data leakage allegations
  • Facebook faces backlash after allegations came to light

Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp, late on Tuesday asked users to “delete” the social media platform, Facebook, amid alleged data leakage of its users for political purposes.

“It is time. #deletefacebook,” Brian Acton tweeted to more than 23,000 of his followers. WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Facebook is facing a major backlash after reports emerged that the political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, accessed the data of its 50 million users without their permission.

Facebook was previously accused of leaking information too. VOA

The company received the user data from a Facebook app years ago that purported to be a psychological research tool, however, the firm was not authorised to have that information.

Also Read: WhatsApp message to wrong number got this man hitched

Earlier on Tuesday, UK’s data protection watchdog sought a court warrant to search the London headquarters of the political data analytics consultancy that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and allegedly harvested Facebook profiles of US voters to influence their choices at the ballot box.

The UK Information Commissioner also ordered the auditors hired by Facebook to stand down when they visited the Cambridge Analytica headquarters. Meanwhile, lawmakers from the US and the UK have called for action following the reports of the data leak of the Facebook users.

Facebook invests big in Community Leaders Program. AFP
WhatsApp cofounder asked users to delete Facebook. AFP

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 but Acton remained with the company for several years before quitting to start “Signal Foundation” earlier in 2018.

Last month, he invested $50 million into “Signal”, an independent alternative to hugely-popular WhatsApp. Another WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, still leads the company and sits on Facebook’s board. IANS