The Chairman and Commissioner of the National Telecommunications Company (NATCOM) Momoh Konteh during a stakeholders engagement on the use of social media has disclosed that the Commission does not intend to block or ban social media but that they want to manage it.
Held at Bintumani conference hall on Tuesday, Konteh said the country is faced with combating issues relating to the misuse of social media especially Facebook and Whatsapp “which has the potential of destabilising the security of the country and basically the moral parts of it that holds us together if not immediately addressed.”
He said over the past few months, the Commission has noted “with concern that some Sierra Leoneans who use Facebook and Whatsapp are misusing these forums by abusing senior government officials”, but this does not mean they will block the usage of social media but that they “just want people to be responsible.”
The Commissioner maintained that social media is being used in the country to create wealth. The use of Whatsapp is now a way of learning for a lot of people, “one can even see people being addicted to its use. It is therefore not an option at this time to ban or block whatsapp or any social media or any website. NATCOM cannot ban or block them rather we are just thinking of ways on how to manage social media.”
Chairman Momoh Konteh further disclosed that “it is now time for users to take responsibility for their actions and posts on social media.”
Recently Facebook has been bought over by whatsapp and to help in the regulation of these social media Konteh said “we have engaged with Facebook to assist us and this engagement with senior management of Facebook in Africa has been going on for the past several days and they have assured us that they will be delighted to share with us more on their policies related to hate speech which is not allowed in the platform which they normally rely on their users to flag and report”. He disclosed further that Facebook also assured the Commission that “they will engage with our corporate law enforcement bodies in the country to track down all those who violate the agreement”.
Another step NATCOM has taken as disclosed by the Chairman is that in the next two months they will establish “the Sierra Leone Internet Exchange Point which will also help reduce our concerns. We are also working on our constitution and will forward it to the Ministry of Information for a policy approval in cabinet. This means NATCOM is going to get another branch within four months and this point will be independent and run by professionals.”
Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Cornelius Deveaux said government is in line with the intention behind the idea of encouraging initiatives for the regulations of the social media.
The APC government he went on, in its eight years of existence has promoted the concept of free speech which is evident in the increase of radio stations and newspapers in the country, “the regulations and laws that have been passed in Parliament particularly the right to access information law and the subsequent establishment of the commission. We have also witnessed in the last years an increase in the use of social media which is evident to the fact that people are at liberty to freely express their views”
Adding that, “ while it is not our wish to stifle free expressions, we are also mindful of our responsibility as a government to ensure that the fundamental rights especially the parts that deals with the privacy of individuals are respected”.
In his statement Francis Langoba Keilie of the Office of National Security (ONS) said in Sierra Leone and Africa internet which is regarded as the new frontier has created amazing opportunities and “ushered astounding prospects for growth and development in every facet of society.”
However he disclosed the disadvantage includes cyber bullying and crimes against children, risks of fraud and identity theft, time wasting and invasion of privacy.
Keilie said even though Africa has benefited immensely from advantages of internet, but there is the issue also of how it should be controlled.
Statements were also made by representative of the Military and Police highlighting the negative effects of social media on security and crimes.