Cyber Crime Bill to curb abuse of social media
CYBER CRIME is one of the greatest threats facing our country, and has enormous implications for our national security, economic prosperity, and public safety. The range of threats and the challenges they present for law enforcement expand just as rapidly as technology evolves”, reads a statement on the official site of the United States Department of Justice.
Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom, the British government has invested nearly £2 billion to create the country’s first “cyber force” to combat online threats from states and terror groups such as Islamic State. The AngloSaxon axis against cyber terrorism is instructive and comes against a realisation that the internet has been used to foster terror-related activities by assisting with the self-radicalisation process of individuals.
This medium also allows information to be easily distributed to those seeking conversion to a particular ideology. The activities include promotion of terror manifestos and ideology, attracting recruitment, psychological warfare, deceptions, communication and networking, fundraising, and attacks on the networks of security authorities. Terrorism researcher Maura Conway once said: “Every machine connected to the internet is potentially a printing press, a broadcasting station or place of assembly”.
This is poignant in the wake of a threat to the Government of Zimbabwe and the emergence of a new form of terrorism which relies on the abuse of social media to instigate violence and foment an uprising. It is common cause that the internet is an unparalleled media suite and terrorists no longer have to have their messages diluted and edited by the media. Instead they can disseminate information of their choice to aid their causes.
In most cases, this is achieved by the terrorists focusing on their grievances in order to justify why they are resorting to terrorist activities. The use of disinformation by terrorist groups is often used to incite fear, panic and hatred by sending threats, airing videos of brutal executions, creating psychological attacks through the use of threats of cyber-terrorism. Disinformation has been used successfully to incite violence by certain militant groups.
It is thus ironic that the US, Britain and their Western allies have borne the brunt of cyberterrorism and developed pieces of legislation to deal with this new threat but are actively involved in using the same media to sponsor subversive activities in foreign lands. In Zimbabwe, the embassies of the US, France and Britain have been fingered in the mushrooming of shadowy groups such as #This Flag and Tajamuka/Sesijikile which are abusing social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook to whip up antiGovernment sentiment and ignite social upheaval.
The link between these groups and the intelligence agencies of nations hostile to Zimbabwe is strong and it is not surprising that one of the characters at the forefront of a bid to incite Zimbabweans to rise up against their Government — Pastor Evan Mawarire – is now domiciled in the US where he has been granted asylum.
Is Zimbabwe not justified in crafting its own pieces of legislation to protect its State and sovereignty in the wake of a genuine and urgent threat to its existence? Clearly messages of hate and incitement being spewed daily by the likes of Mawarire, Promise Mkhwananzi and their diaspora cohorts some of whom have been positively identified by our security agencies are tantamount to terrorism and we cannot expect the Government to sit idly while the nation is under attack.
We stated above that disinformation has been used successfully to incite violence and the sporadic acts of banditry which occurred in Harare, Beitbridge and Bulawayo during protests called by these subversive groups were a response to distorted information deliberately twisted to achieve anarchy and mayhem.
Should the Government fold its arms and watch as key infrastructure is destroyed by drugged anarchists being used to advance a lost cause. We think not. Peaceful protests for a genuine grievance are permitted in Zimbabwe but sponsored demonstrations designed to cause civil disobedience and violence can never be tolerated.
We commend the police and other security agencies for remaining calm in the face of extreme provocation by lumpen elements during protests and urge them to resist attempts to cajole them to use force and ignite mayhem.
We also hope the Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill to be presented in Parliament soon will go a long way in protecting Zimbabweans from cyber terrorists. Government on Tuesday warned Zimbabweans in and outside the country against abusing social media through circulating subversive material that had the effect of undermining the State.
The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Dr Christopher Mushohwe, said Government was aware of Zimbabweans circulating messages of terror against the State among them Victor Dube (resident in South Africa,) Jeff Judah Hossana (South Africa) and Tapiwa Marimbe (Australia) riding on social media. We hope the charlatans have been put on notice and will only have themselves to blame if they do not heed the Government’s warning.