How should we handle misbehaviour on social networks?

Although this might sound a bit extreme and authoritarian, I, however, think that as people we sometimes need to be called to order. But whether legislation will always be the way to go about doing that is a different matter. Sort of.

According to media reports on Friday, Swazilang’s King Moswati III is threatening to pass laws that would bizarrely make it an offence to criticise him and or his government (my emphasis) on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

What is worse about this report is that it is that country’s justice ministry that is looking into it.

Justice Minister, Mgwawa Gamedze, was quoted as telling the senate that: “We will be tough on those who write bad things about the king on Twitter and Facebook. We want to set an example”. This after Mswati received criticism on what has been seen as unprecedented public protests over Swaziland’s financial crisis and that the kingdom is said to be on the brink of bankruptcy.

Gamedze said the government was finalising a law that will make it illegal to speak badly of the king on social media networks and that it would soon come to the “tiny mountain kingdom’s parliament” that would obviously, and without hesitation, rubber stamp the legislation.

The proposed law and Gamedze’s reponse also followed Senator Thuli Msane’s claim that people continuously wrote terrible things about the nation and its authorities on social media. Msane reportedly said: “It’s like the moment Swazi people cross the border to neighbouring countries they begin to go on a campaign to disrespect their own country and king”.

She said “surely there is something that must be done with them. There must be a law that can take them to task”.

Although I am not sure whether this legislation would sort of the problem except that it might probably bring it down, I, however, think there must be other creative ways of stoping people from saying bad things about Mswati and or his government.

This reminds me of a tweet a few months back, sometime last year actually, when someone unashamedly said some very bad things at President Jacob Zuma. Even after I asked him to stop doing swearing at Zuma that way, he continued anyway. The tweeter continued to insult Zuma, and even suggested that I might be one of his cronnies when my views were seen by him as a defence for Zuma. At the time I felt that I could have moered the person.

But the best way to sort this out is not to police people with every piece of legislation but ask to them to behave in a proper when on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc).

Or maybe not?

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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3 thoughts on “How should we handle misbehaviour on social networks?

  1. AK, I don’t see what is the problem with people expressing their view about a government of their own. For me, as long the criticism is justified and is in relation to the performance of a leader, I welcome that. It gives that leader a chance to look into certain aspects of their leadership, improve them and move forward. It will become a problem if the criticism is leveled against the person of the leader. If for example people would say, Jacob Zuma is ugly and has a big head, as a South African, I would have issues with them because as much as I don’t like he remains my President.

    But, if people say, Jacob Zuma’s administration has failed to, for example, the youth and if they have proof, I don’t see a problem with that.

    My boss lady from my previous job is from Swaziland and some of the things she used to tell me where a bit disturbing.
    Let’s go to the reed dance one of these days, maybe we can emerge with pure young girls that side.

    • Albert,

      In the case of Zuma referred to in my post, the person threw insults at him and even used the f-word and a few others and it would not have been long before he used the k-word. I called him (it looked like it had been written by a man, hey) to order, but he would not listen. So I left it at that.

      So here the person was criticizing and insulting Zuma as a person and not the government administration he leads while in the case of Swaziland, I think, it is Mswati’s administration that has received harsh criticism not only from its citizens but from the world over. So in that case (suppressing Mswati’s administration such criticism) it is not fair. And it certainly isn’t democratic too.

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