I was sitting inside my car in the parking lot fantasising about life when a heavy, panting, male voice disturbed my beautiful thoughts. ‘Have you heard’? Astounded James. ‘Have you heard that they are shutting down WhatsApp-Twitter-Facebook-Instagram-snapchat-Imo-LinkedIn… and social media’? ‘But social media is a general term for all of those you have mention…’ I chipped in. ‘It doesn’t matter, what matters is that you understand that something is being shut down… I heard that they closing down social media because people are abusing their freedoms. ‘Ati (that) you think you are super stars when you are online scandalising everyone’ explained James with so much confidence that one would think what he was saying was an absolute truth.
‘I am saying the truth, they are shutting down social media’ he continued in his apparent attempt to convince me. I needed that afternoon was to be left alone and the person I lest expected was my “village champion” to come and disturb my peace. At this point and in utter frustration I reminded James that I was having a “me time” and would appreciate being left alone. To this he protested and even made his “have-you-heard…?” question even louder. ‘Ok, jump in the car let’s sit and day dream together’ I suggested seeing that come rain, sunshine or thunder he wasn’t going anywhere.
‘In regards to your question…’ I clarified, ‘they are not shutting down social media, but they are introducing legislation that will regulate the way we use and access online media’ I explained. ‘These legislations are three bills, namely; the Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Bill, Data Protection Bill and E-commerce Bill. These bills are in an effort to curb what the authorities are calling “irresponsible” use of online spaces’ I recounted. ‘But this is a bad idea isn’t?’ inquired James. ‘Not really’ I interjected. ‘This is quite a delicate issue that needs a proper plan and execution’. At this point we were interrupted by a youngster blazing loud music in his car. ‘That car must be borrowed, can’t he even finish shocks with such loud music?’ giggled James.
‘Can you pay attention or else I will chase you from my car’ I reminded him. ‘Now let me explain properly…Social media regulation is both good and bad. It is good if properly executed with no malice and with no targeted individuals, groups or entities in mind. It can be bad if it is done with the ultimate aim of fixing a group or class of people. This can actually be a cure far worse than the disease.’ I explained. ‘Online media in a country like Zambia has opened up avenues for free speech and it can be argued that if regulation was enacted, the main victims would not be the purveyors of online misdemeanours but Zambia and its people’s freedom of expression. The results, would do far more damage to our democracy than any harm the culprits of social media abuse combined would bring’ I continued. ‘…Regulation at any level must be enforced with a careful consideration of the unique characteristics embedded in that society. In Zambia for instance, issues such as culture, socio economic factors and levels of education must be considered. It beats the purpose of introducing regulation if and when the ultimate reason/s for doing so are not explicitly laid out. Responsible use of social media must be enforced by government, society and all stake holders. One of the ways to do so, would be to sensitise users of the dos and don’ts online. Stringent recourse to abuse must be clearly stipulated and those found wanting must be tried by the courts just like it happens in real life’.
‘And just a reminder’ I said. ‘Zambia must avoid the coping and pasting of legislation from other countries and forcing the writings onto us. You know the business of hijacking laws turning them into some random assemblage of sentences which apparently look like they were kidnapped in the dead of night and forced onto our law books against their will, causes nothing but a semblance of a hostage situation which doesn’t add any value at all’ I concluded.