The Executive Director Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Sesan has challenged the government to drop the idea of shutting down the internet riding on a false pretense of national security, lamented the situation in Chad (Niger Republic) were the citizens have been cut off the social media for more than thirteen months.
Gbenga Sesan said this at the 7th Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (#DRIFT19) featuring over twenty-three parallel sessions put together by Paradigm Initiative in partnership with AccessNow, African Internet Rights Alliance, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Article 19, Association for Progressive Communications, BudgIT, CCHub, Centre for Youth Education and Economic Empowerment, Digital Africa Research Lab and Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights.
In his words: “When people get connected you should have a scenario where you should be able to think and innovate to improve your life and not to be scared that somebody is about to arrest you because you expressed an opinion that they do not like. That is why we are having this conversation.
“We do have Digital Rights in Africa Report every year and we don’t like what we see in many African countries. The idea then is to bring everybody together – government, civil society, the private sector, academia, media, even security agencies. The focus of the continent should be innovation for economic development not setting up some rules to having internet shut down. That is not going to help anybody.
“Chad has been offline for social media for a year and a month; that is uncivil. So, this conversation is on how we can be a continent on/for prosperity and not the one everybody describes as the ‘Dark Continent’.
Contributing during the panel session, the Executive Director, Human Rights Watch African Division, Mausi Segun, said that the internet has become pivotal to enforcing positive change on the Continent.
She cited the case in Ethiopia (2018) where the internet (social media) played a key role in mobilizing the public to ‘fight’ against the authoritarian government.
“The cyberspace has become resolute in the fight against internet shutdown and other human right violations. The cyberspace can take credit for the change in Ethiopia.
To fight fake news, the session called for more responsibility on the part of social media platforms – such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., localize their algorithms in detecting and combating fake news.
This, according to them, is to ensure that internet users are not shut-out in a manner that subdues their individual opinion on national issues. Same time, internet users should join in the fight against fake news by embracing fact-checking platforms like Africa Check and others to stay on the right side of the law.