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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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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)

Next Story

Facebook Still Hosting NZ Shooting Footage: Report

Facing flak, the social media giant is now exploring restrictions on who can use its “Facebook Live” feature

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A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Despite Facebook’s claim that the livestreaming video of the March 15 Christchurch shooting that killed 50 people was removed from its platforms, sections of the raw footage are still available for users to watch, the media reported.

According to a report in Motherboard on Friday, certain videos on Facebook and Instagram show sections of the raw attack footage.

“The world’s biggest and most well-resourced social media network is still hosting copies of the violent attack video on its own platform as well as Instagram,” the report claimed.

Some of the videos are slices of the original 17-minute clip — trimmed down to one minute or so — and are open to be viewed by anyone.

In one instance, instead of removing the video, which shows the terrorist shooting and murdering innocent civilians from a first-person perspective, Facebook has simply marked the clip as potentially containing “violent or graphic content”.

One of the clips shows the terrorist walking up to the first mosque he targeted, and opening fire. The video does not show the full attack, and stops at the 01:15 mark.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

A Facebook spokesperson, however, said “the video did violate our policies and has been removed”.

The Facebook livestreaming of the New Zealand terror attack sparked global outrage. The video was viewed over 4,000 times before it was removed.

The video was later shared in millions on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

Also Read- Jack Dorsey Admits Twitter Makes it Easy to Abuse Others

Facing flak, the social media giant is now exploring restrictions on who can use its “Facebook Live” feature.

Earlier this month, New Zealand’s privacy commissioner John Edwards labelled Facebook as “morally bankrupt pathological liars” after the social media platform’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to play down the Facebook livestreaming of Christchurch shooting. (IANS)