Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Published on 15th August 2023

In a recent statement, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) voiced their concerns, labelling social media as a potential curse rather than a blessing in the country. While acknowledging its positive potential when used responsibly, the SLP emphasized that the misuse of this modern communication tool has emerged as a serious threat to national security.

Highlighting the transformative impact of social media on communication, the SLP underscored its role in facilitating quicker and more cost-effective interactions. “With the power of social media, information can be disseminated to a wide audience in an instant, bridging gaps across demographics,” the statement noted.

However, the SLP’s concerns stem from disturbing incidents that have unfolded due to the abuse of social media platforms. Notably, the tragic events of August 10th, which resulted in the loss of lives among both police officers and civilians, were reportedly orchestrated through such channels.

Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) Mohamed Abu Braima Jah, Director of Operations, expressed the gravity of the situation, describing social media as the “greatest threat to national security.” AIG Jah recounted instances where social media was weaponized to spread disinformation, falsehoods, incendiary content, and divisive messages, causing tension during the recent multi-tier election on June 24th.

It is troubling to the SLP that some individuals contributing to this misuse reside abroad, taking advantage of the absence of jurisdiction. The police caution that such actions will not go unpunished, as Sierra Leone now possesses a Cyber Security and Crime Act that prohibits such behaviour.

AIG Jah issued a stern warning to those engaged in such activities, reminding them that there are legal consequences for their actions. “Engaging in malicious activities, threats, false information dissemination, and fear-mongering do not fall under the umbrella of freedom of expression and cannot be shielded as human rights issues,” the SLP emphasized.

Acknowledging the balance between freedom of expression and societal responsibilities, AIG Jah reiterated, “While exercising your rights, you also have the responsibility to respect the rights of others and adhere to the laws of the land. This principle holds true for all democratic societies.”

As Sierra Leone navigates the complexities of the digital age, the debate over the role of social media in shaping public discourse and national security continues, underscoring the urgent need for responsible online behaviour.

By Sulaiman Sesay

[email protected]

Courtesy - Awoko Publications 

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