Editor's Comment

Sanitise social media

RECENT happenings of fraudsters using names and details of prominent people, including the head of State, to create Facebook accounts for ill intentions is not only worrying but validates the need for stringent cyber laws.While it is appreciated that social media is one of the most remarkable technological developments of our time, lack of or poor regulation has turned it into a monster that is now haunting humanity.
Actually, American writer Roxane Gay refers to social media as a double-edged sword.
This is because social media can cause more harm than the opportunities it presents, depending on how it is used.
At its best, social media has indisputably transformed and enhanced human interactions by breaking geographical boundaries and offering real-time communication.
Social media platforms have, for instance, created human connections at all levels from individual, family and community, to national and global.
And of all social media brands, Facebook offers an enormous global reach combined with personal intimacy and immediate engagement.
These attributes, if well harnessed, have potential to catalyse development at various levels.
On the flip side, criminally-minded individuals are using these attributes of social media to harm unsuspecting people.
It is regrettable that instead of using social media to build society, some morally bankrupt individuals are taking advantage of the unregulated cyberspace to commit felonies of all kinds.
Today cyberspace has been turned into a den of fraud, bullying, pornography, defamation, child trafficking and fake news, among the many negative vices.
The recent happenings of imposters creating fake accounts using names and details of the President and senior government officials to defraud unsuspecting citizens point to the fact that cyber laws are long overdue.
It cannot be business as usual.
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya recently directed ZICTA to write to Facebook managers to shut down fake accounts by fraudsters posing as President Edgar Lungu and Cabinet ministers.
“Government has been talking to ZICTA. We have realised that there are about 155 fake Facebook accounts purporting to be the President (Mr Lungu). There are about 434 fake Facebook accounts of ministers,” the chief government spokesperson said.
Ms Siliya said Government is concerned that a lot of citizens have been victims of fraud through Facebook and K600,000 has been lost through these transactions.
These fraudsters are luring people with fake promises of jobs and trips in exchange of money.
Many of those too desperate to interrogate why high-level government officials would resort to Facebook to offer jobs have fallen for the trap.
While only 49 cases have been reported to law enforcement agencies so far, we believe there are many more which are not revealed.
It is commendable that Government has moved in to ensure that all identified fake accounts purported to belong to the head of State and senior government officials are deactivated.
This is a necessary short-term measure to inhibit the fraudsters from using the accounts to defraud more people.
While some stakeholders are contending against the enactment of cyber laws, we believe they are needed to bring sanity to the cyberspace.
Government has an obligation to protect its citizens and cyber laws will help prevent many from falling victim at the hands of sophisticated online thugs.
While Government is finding ways of making cyberspace a safe place, citizens also need to be wary of wolves using social media as a preying ground for victims.
Citizens have a responsibility to take precaution before engaging in any Facebook transactions to avoid falling prey to social media tricksters who are becoming more sophisticated as technology advances.

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