Harare – Zimbabwe says it plans to clamp down on social media and create its own Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter applications, similar to China, according to Communications Minister Supa Mandiwanzira.
By Peta Thornycroft
He says “supervision” of the internet is “imminent”.
The state says it is already drawing up legal and policy documents to restrict information communication technologies, while local web developers are apparently designing products similar to social media applications.
Pictures emerged recently of President Robert Mugabe standing and nodding (in agreement) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo during the Zimbabwe leader’s visit. Some informal sites said the pictures proved that Mugabe, 92, was sleeping on his feet.
Mugabe had reacted furiously on his return and hinted that he would take action to control social media.
“We do not expect this kind of unprofessional behaviour and wilful misconduct from our journalists. This kind of gutter journalism resides on the social media platforms and should not be allowed in the mainstream media,” Information Minister Christopher Mushowe said after the pictures of Mugabe nodding off appeared.
The government-controlled Sunday Mail carried the social media censorship report, saying China has legislation and technology to support the regulation of social network sites.
It said Sina Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China, was massively used.
Mandiwanzira says internet supervision is imminent and would become policy.
He says a new fund, the Universal Services Fund, to be established with contributions from telecommunications companies, would be used to pay for development of the technology.
“There is enormous abuse of the internet, particularly social media. Hardly a day passes without a story alleging scandals involving social media,” Mandiwanzira says.
He pointed to a false report which claimed a young woman was shown injecting a toddler with HIV-infected blood.
“It later emerged that the story was absolute hogwash and a fabrication. That is one example of how the internet is being abused, and that cannot continue,” the minister says. – IOL