Digital Rights Network (DRN), a local non-governmental organisation that fights for rights related to internet use, has urged Malawians to be responsible on social media and other digital platforms.
The organisation says while it appreciates that digital rights are human rights, it has noted that there are individuals who persistently use the internet to propagate hate and spread fake news apart from using others’ information illegally.
Its Executive Director, Joshua Mwendo, says though it is very difficult to maximally protect one’s data once it has been posted online, relevant laws must still be applied if someone has abused another on the internet.
“For instance, there are some criminals that use other people’s pictures to commit crimes including extortion and blackmail. We should not turn the internet into a depraved space because it is proving very critical in disseminating information,” Mwendo said.
He also urged the government to ensure the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security law, which Parliament passed in 2016, is fully implemented so that Malawians are protected in the digital space.
On the other hand, Mwendo warned against using the law to punish those deemed to be enemies of the ruling elite, saying that will defeat its essence.
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mark Botomani, said the government is already working on effecting the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act by, among other things, developing a Cyber Security Strategy.
He added that the government has set up a Computer Emergency Response Team, housed under the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, whose responsibility is to coordinate all the work related to dealing with cyber security threats.
“Selected Government officials have undergone, are undergoing and will undergone specialised training to respond to these specialised threats.
“Regulations have been promulgated and will soon be going through Parliamentary processes. These regulations will be used to deal with issues of electronic transactions including issues of fake online publications, fake accounts, cyber bullying, pornography and so on,” Botomani said.
He also called on the media to take an interest in understanding issues surrounding cyber security so that they sensitise the public correctly.
“Electronic and social media platforms are being used elsewhere to advance social and economic progress of some countries because they have eased the task of transferring of information and knowledge sharing.
“It is sad that in Malawi, it seems electronic and social media platforms are avenues for destruction, character assassination and promotion of hate,” Botomani said.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje