And so will all other respected and respectable Social Media and Networks
There has recently been that racist scandal quaking the Mauritian Facebook Networks. It links a 20 yr-old girl to some highly racist commentaries towards a fasting community. And like for those who saw the content expressed in dirty Mauritian Creole, there was my first reaction :
She should be arrested, as per the country’s legal standing on libeling, defamation and propagating racism and hatred messages, without regards if that was done online or not. It should go the same way, too, for the persons responsible, the owner/ creator of the Facebook Group or Page, who allowed such commentaries to be issued from their source.
And THEY would have deserved to face the possibility of a 5-yr jail sentence and/ or a fine of up to MUR 1,000,000. The facts are indisputable, linked to HER account, linked to HER very picture, on THEIR page and through its publication, having THEIR approval and blessing. I have the intimate conviction that such a case should be dealt with, along the same way a breaching broadcaster would have been taken care of. Accountability and responsibilities need to be defined and cleared.
But then… This is where several other disturbing questions pop up…
- Who is supposed to do the Police work on Online Mauritian Networks? Facebook? ICTA? IBA? The Police IT Division?
- Who should make a case about this episode of communal hatred? Facebook? Facebook users? The Local DPP?
- How do our laws work on such a case?
I spoke, on the subject, to several local professionals who are supposed to guide people on the ways to legally use, handle and interact with, Social Media in Mauritius. No one could affirm the right path. Either the legislation was unclear, or loose ends would appear on the way IBA, ICTA would have to deal with Facebook or any other Social Media owner and hoster.
I have been asked, as a Social Media Specialist, on a local mainstream radio, about a way to control, contain and manage such foul deeds. I made it clear that Facebook for itself would not do thorough policing over its +955 Million user-base, except for some automated keywords- based janitoring.
I prompted that trying to control Social Media was an almost impossible task and that using filters, like in China, to prevent such ordeals wasn’t the best solution pertaining to basic Human Rights.
To me, it is a matter of pure civility and about the ways We, Mauritian Social Media users, would define what is acceptable and not, while relating to our collective sensitivities. We should in fact, know what to do when seeing such dangerously sensitive things unfold. We should learn how to manage our own discernment and freewill. We should learn how to behave online, we should learn about the laws of our country and intervene by reporting any case of suspected or proven wrongdoing, to Facebook (or any Social Media Platform) as a first step, then to the nearest Police station. But we all know how making a deposition can be a daunting thing, both in terms of reputation and time consumption.
It is of common knowledge that Social Media owners will tend to promptly respond to requests from local authorities to either delete, ban, explore and search a specific LOCAL user account. Should the user be outbound to the local network, the mission and inquiry would be more arduous. It is always more difficult to play with the Human Rights of an American than to play with any other national’s.
As mentioned in one of the earlier Islander’s Prism articles here :
Using a Facebook group page as a free speech spot can be an enchanting experience, but first of all, it should be regarded as a private space that can be open to the public, upon its admins’ decision only. It is legally owned by its creator who is deemed to make good and legal use of it. Community Managers, including admins and moderators as well as the owner/ creator can be made fully accountable for any obnoxious call coming from the group’s wall.
One 18-year-old was detained in London for allegedly encouraging violence on Facebook, during the August 2011 riots.
Likewise, Mauritian Laws can also be applicable upon the simplest documented report made to the nearest Police Station.
All this is to say that, as for our local Networks, we won’t always be able to rely on our regulating institutions, like ICTA or IBA, or even on the Police IT DIvision, as they are unequipped, improperly staffed and not at all proactive. In fact they do not monitor anything.
Solutions to monitor the whole “SocialMediaverse” do exist and strong actions to counter foul plays can be taken without the help of censorship. For the time being we can only rely on our “bon sens”, on our level of civility and citizenship to react and act on such awful online episodes.
Social Media is still in its baby days. It is the only human invention that man hasn’t tamed yet!
- Countering hate speech on social media (dawn.com)
- Editor of Mauritian Sunday Times arrested (newstalk.ie)