LISTEN: What exactly is ‘social media abuse’?


Last week Monday, I joined the host of Star FM’s #TheHub programme to quiz the ICT Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira on what exactly Government regards as ‘social media abuse’ and to get clarity on Government’s stance regarding social media i.e is Government planning to ban/regulate it?

In this 3-part interview, Min Mandiwanzira responds. I add a few quotes from the discussion and will leave you to ponder them.

Mandiwanzira on Government’s ‘official stance’:

The official stance is that social media is an important tool for development…..but we must promote the responsible use of social media

Mandiwanzira on what constitutes social media:

When we talk about abuse we are talking about things that undermine the rights of others….things that are illegal in the context of our country’s laws

Mandiwanzira on how Government views criticism:

They are talking about we don’t want you to criticise the President or to criticise ministers. Well, we like criticism…

Mandiwanzira on claims that he stole money from parastatals:

I think that they must produce evidence… There has been stories that I took $200 000 and I drive a $200 000 car, what nonsense!

Mandiwanzira on identifying those who abuse social media:

Zimbabweans, especially the bad apples, must never fool themselves that they cannot be found. Every item you use has an address….people must not hide behind technology and think they are smart

Mandiwanzira on dealing with users who abuse social media:

I think the people who must regulate social media are its users. When you see as a user of social media somebody abusing it and sending you child pornography, report them to the police….there are laws that already deal with that….

Because the Internet never forgets – mud sticks so easily


 

An incident on Twitter inspired this reflective blog on how easy it is smear, slander and besmirch online.

And what is more damaging is not that mud is so easily slung but that it so easily sticks because – the Internet never forgets.

I write this blog for two reasons.

Firstly because the Internet never forgets, I prefer that the narrative of my life is not overshadowed by the malice of others and the vile ill-will from which slander manifests.

Secondly, because I have learned over the years that when I write no one can shut me up.

In writing about this incident, I will no doubt place added scrutiny upon the malicious slurs uttered against me but it is not my nature to let things go un-critiqued.

No doubt, this blog and that incident will be referenced in future online conversations by those trying to shame me into silence.

They can try. But that’s all they can do.

I have always insisted that my silence is a gift I will never bestow upon any one who seeks to gag, label, silence or malign me.

It all began with a tweet by a gentleman I follow and admire greatly.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.00.14 PM.png

This tweet resonated with me because it is so easy to discredit genuine narratives when inaccurate content (text, image or video) is peddled to bolster legitimate grievances.

Something vital is taken away when the truth is forced to lean upon a lie…. when true events are framed and conveyed in accompaniment with unrelated images.

Something vital is taken away.

Anyway, @TrendsZim defended itself by pointing out that using file photos is common practice.

Which is a fair point.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.30.29 PM.png

But using captions with file photos is equally standard practice.

In tongue-in-cheek response to @TrendsZim, I pointed out that the necessity of captions was to ensure that file photos do not end up misleading audiences and misrepresenting events.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.29.51 PM.png

In an attempt to deflect from the issue of #Captions, @TrendsZim responded by bringing up my employer – as many are wont to do when they want to gag me.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.30.04 PM

I was not going to be fazed by such an obvious tactic. Labels are an easy weapon and I have been labelled many things in my time – it is the price one pays for being contrarian in Zimbabwe’s fashionably polarised and sharply bifurcated public discourse.

In a blog titled CIOs come in all shapes, sizes, I discuss this experience of being labelled at great length.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.03.36 PM.png

So. I ignored the reference to my employer and pointed out that it had nothing to do with the issue of #Captions that was the subject of the debate.

So @TrendsZim dug deep into its bag of easy weaponry – salacious, slanderous slurs.

The issue was no longer about my employer.

But about my private parts and the role they supposedly played in advancing my career.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.01.07 PM

I was rather surprised that some of the people I get along with actually retweeted this

Now. There is nothing that so easily discredits a woman, than the claim or suggestion that she is ‘loose’ or a ‘hoe’.

Or (as in the present case) that the woman got to the top by lying on her back.

It is a potent weapon – this power to casually assign whoredom, and many wield it with reckless abandon.

And many a woman, has fallen victim to it and never recovered from it.

Luckily, I happen to come from very tough stock. So I am not easily broken.

But I am not oblivious to the power of perception and the devaluing of one’s brand, the soiling of one’s name and the impugning of one’s integrity.

The Internet never forgets.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.00.46 PM

And of course, this had everything to with #Captions

I suppose, having falsely broadcasted that I am a whore, the person behind the @TrendsZim handle felt they had discovered my underbelly and could sink their teeth in and finish me off by casting aspersions on my educational pursuit and the funding of the same.

We will expose you for the filth that you are – such gleeful, boastful and hubristic gloating.

Pause for a moment.

How did we get from #Captions to labelling to ascribing whoredom and to the assignation of filth?

The answer is simply that mud is easy to fling online.

But it is also easy to fling offline.

The only difference is – the Internet never forgets and so, mud sticks so easily.

 

mbindwane.png

It sticks so easily, that the likes of @mbindwane will not resist the urge to react – awu! indeed.

And as easily as that, people who do not know you – think they do know you or of you.

Of course. The issue is not me at all.

The issue (in case you got lost in all the deflection and digression) is about using #Captions with images so that narratives (online and offline) can be authentically told.

*I deleted my tweeted responses in favour of encapsulating my response into this blog, 140 characters is so limiting*

Several people sent me Direct Messages on Twitter, to privately counsel me to ignore and not entertain or respond to the vitriol.

But I had to. It is not the first time I have been on the receiving end of vitriol and it will not be the last time.

I will remain the contrarian that I am and I will, no doubt, attract backlash from those who hate being critiqued.

Anyway. If you forget everything else I may have shared in this post. Please remember what the topic was:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 10.48.02 PM.png

In case this post goes viral (one never knows, lol) – I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to read some of my work:

My thoughts on Honouring Zimbabwe’s Freedom Fighters

My book (co-authored with @MakiL) titled We The People: July 31 – Our Version of Events

And my column on varied topics related to #DigitalDialogue

Lastly, I am glad the likes of @RangaMberi always provoke debate on topical issues such as #captioning images and truthfully #capturing narratives online. Social media so easily spreads falsehoods to the detriment of us all.