Should social media be regulated?

It is in the interest of every country to protect the integrity of the internet so that it is a tool for development, not a tool for destruction. Social media has reached a point where there is need to set standards suitable for public interest.

Just like mainstream media is regulated in order to have quality content that upholds values and standards of a country’s culture, many people have argued that the same should be applied for social media.

Some people have used social media to spread rumours, hate speech, manipulating people’s images using Photoshop software, among others.

Fiona Kamikazi Rutagengwa, a communications specialist, agrees that there should be tough measures on how to manage social media content.

Kamikazi points out because of the country’s history, it is not good to post or share hate speech or pictures show dead people after accidents.

“Technology has good things and bad. Currently, it is more difficult to control the use of social media. But, regulations are needed. The majority of teenagers are addicted to the social media and sometimes abuse social media which is wrong. If nothing is done, this will be the legacy for generations and generations,” she noted.

She referred to the developed countries where social media is now regulated, saying that in Rwanda, the same should be done.

“Punishment should be set for anyone who uses social media irresponsibly. More trainings are needed to teach people how they could responsibly use those platforms. The use of social media doesn’t require anyone to attend school but it is about self- control,” Kamikazi added.

Kamikazi advised social media users to uphold Rwandan values which will drive them to post and share positive content.

“Rwandans should applaud the development of technology. We should take advantage of its use to develop our country by sharing beneficial things like country’s programs, message that promote unity and love among people,” she said.

Rwanda National Police spokesperson Theos Badege. / Sam Ngendahimana

Patrick Nyirishema, the Director General of Rwanda Utility and Regulatory Agency (RURA), also agrees with regulating social media but adds that the proper management of social media requires the intervention of different stakeholders.

“The development of technology creates some cases that are not regulated yet and this is a big problem. The issue of social media users who irresponsibly use the platforms is not local but also global. Actually, there are no regulations for such cases.”

He further adds that the use of technology has become an issue of concern which requires various stakeholders to come together and discuss tangible solutions. Social media users should respect the dos and don’ts in Rwandan culture. They should be driven with a cultural spirit of appropriately using such platforms.

“More awareness is needed, but punishing people is a long process. We have to sit down with other stakeholders to set such regulations to ensure that social media is positively productive,”

Lonzen Rugira, a columnist with The New Times says it is unnecessary to police social media adding that it is a platform which extends the editorial role to the individual who must monitor themselves based upon his or her ethical standards. It is up to the consumer of social media to establish a relationship of trust with the particular follower.

“Social media is intended to be that way. This is what makes it different from traditional media that is moderated by editorial lines and professional ethics of fairness, objectivity among others,” Rugira said.

“To expect social media to constrain itself the way traditional media does is to fail to understand what social media is and its role in information circulation. Once social media is regulated, it would defeat its purpose,” Rugira added.

Theos Badege, Police Spokesperson, says there are penalties for illegal practices committed on social media like identity theft and spreading hate speech among others.

“Some people have been convicted for misusing social media like the ones who spread messages full of genocide ideology,” Badege said.

Badege advises the public especially social media users to take advantage of the development of technology instead of misusing it.