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Katakwi Lcv decries looming Social media misuse.

Katakwi leaders with the Vice President Jessica Alupo

𝗕𝘆 𝗥𝗶𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗢𝗻𝗮𝗽𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗺

The Katakwi district chairman, Geoffrey Omolo has condemned several social media platforms in the district.

Omolo in his speech during the recent fundraising in Usuk,14th-8-2022, says that there are WhatsApp groups which he noted are platforms used to only abuse leaders.

“Instead of discussing developmental matters, we are busy wasting our time and MBs encouraging divisionism and conflict on WhatsApp.” Said Omolo.

Social media as a tool politically is trending and so widely used in Katakwi district to explain the loop holes, achievements and as well as respond to falsehoods. For close to one year now, 99% of the top elected leaders in Teso are very quiet on social media and yet they are members on different platforms.

Knowledge and information have become a transformative dimensions of people’s existence and are key drivers behind the implementation of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From government to small villages, knowledge and information guides what people do and how they do it.

It is as obvious that SDG 9 cannot be attained without massive ICT investments in local populations, especially in remote and vulnerable communities so they can reach out to each other, form friendships and connections, and brainstorm their responses to crises in real time.

Omolo an active member in Katakwi WhatsApp groups notes that platforms like “Usuk na ikoto oni”( Usuk we want), “Katakwi Youth Parliament” among others have deliberately indulged in spreading hate speech and extreme use of abusive language in their daily posts.

Omolo has urged social media members to aggressively use various media platforms to discuss and share developmental ideas. He said when people misuse the Internet and social media, they can become echo chambers for fake news, hoaxes and hate speech.

In 2021 while appearing before the Parliament’s Committee of ICT, the minister for Information Communication Technology ICT and national guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi said government was in the process of drafting a bill which will among others, punish persons who spread fake and illicit information.“

Dr. Baryomunsi said this will close the gaps in the Computer Misuse Act, which he reasoned that has not done enough to regulate misuse of power held on social media but some Members of Parliament expressed concern that the law on social media is a ploy to gag freedom of speech and expression.

How can the risks of social media be managed?

Emmanuel Omayo, a social media blogger says Social media users need to be educated about the dos and don’ts of social media, the dangers of abusive messages on social media and their liabilities in case of defamation, so that they can better manage their accounts.

He encourages forming social media saving SACCOs to minimize what transpires in the group discussions. “Some group members have social media excitement, and post anyhow to gather a following”, he said

What the law says

Computer Misuse Act, 2011 Act 2 of 2011 Published in Uganda Gazette no. 10 on 14 February 2011 provides for the safety and security of electronic transactions and information systems; to prevent unlawful access, abuse or misuse of information systems including computers and to make provision for securing the conduct of electronic transactions in a trustworthy electronic environment and to provide for other related matters.

Recently 17 July 2022, the Kampala Central Member of Parliament Muhammad Nsereko sought to amend this act so that Ugandans who violate privacy of others, or stain other’s reputation, online will not be eligible to hold public office or stand for election, if convicted under provisions of a recently Tuesday 12th-July 2022 proposed law tabled in Parliament.

The object of the Bill tabled by Nsereko, is to “enhance the provisions on unauthorised access to information or data; to prohibit the sharing of any information relating to a child without authorisation from a parent or guardian; [and] to prohibit the sending or sharing of information that promotes hate speech”. Violations will lead to prosecution and, upon conviction, Shs15m penalty or time in jail.

However, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT Sarah Zawedde while appearing before the Parliament committee on ICT requested that the bill be withdrawn because her ministry is working on a more holistic bill that will cover the gaps in the Acts governing the sector including the Current Computer Misuse Act 2011.

Government embraces the use of social media

The government has over the years demonstrated that it has embraced social media by actively joining in through the various mediums such as Facebook and Twitter.

To this effect, all ministries and government departments have accounts through which citizens interact with government officials. Some of these include UCC, State House Uganda, Uganda Police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), and Uganda Media Centre. These have eased communication between the government bodies and the citizens.

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