Irresponsible use of social media should be discouraged

IF THERE is one human behaviour that supersedes others in this century it’s the attraction to social media.

IF THERE is one human behaviour that supersedes others in this century it’s the attraction to social media.

It has defined how people spend their spare time and influenced their behaviour. It has made restriction to communication an obsolete and futile venture but it also comes with its dangers.

Social networks are fertile rumour mills, especially these days when the dreaded Ebola virus is ravaging parts of West Africa and threatens to widen its sphere. Fears of its spread have been fuelled by social media and Rwanda has not been spared.

Panic hit the city last week that six Ebola cases had been identified at the Kigali International Airport. The rumour was propagated on the social media scene, and to counter it, the Ministry of Health also took to the same medium to allay the public’s fears.

Rwandans’ penchant for bodily contact; the hugs, all round shaking of hands and the pecks on the cheeks as a form of greeting, dramatically fell that week, simply because of irresponsible use of the social media.

But health officials highlighted the effectiveness of countering social media misinformation using the same medium. That saved the day.

Intentionally creating mass panic is another form of terrorism and the law should be clear on that. Hiding behind pseudonyms to spread hate messages, defame and to distabilise social cohesion should be accompanied by penalties.

Social media adherents should be made aware of the fact that every action has its consequences.

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