#FIFAfrica20: iWatch Africa calls on tech multinationals to do more to protect journalists & rights activists in Africa

Promoting digital rights

Policy Director of iWatch Africa, Gideon Sarpong has called on tech multinationals such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to do more combat the increasingly spate of attacks meted out to journalists and rights activists within the digital ecosystem in Africa.

Gideon Sarpong, speaking at the just ended Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2020 (#FIFAfrica20) described the current structures put in place by big tech companies as “unsustainable” in dealing with the evolving threat against journalists and rights activists in Africa.

“Tech multinationals must set up regional offices to deal with its increasing users and abusive content on their platforms. The current strategy of using algorithms to detect and take down abusive content as well as lack of physical presence in almost all African countries is unsustainable. The likes of Facebook and Twitter must go beyond using AI systems to deal with vitriol on their platforms to engaging journalists and rights activists around the continent to provide sustainable solutions,” he stated.

iWatch Africa between January to August 2020 has recorded over 4000 instances of online abuse directed at journalists and rights activists in Ghana. Among these abuses include threats of violence and harm which have been duly reported to the law enforcement bodies in Ghana.

A recent study by the Reuters Institute in Oxford also found that seven in ten journalists (71%) in the Global South have experienced online harassment, with more than half saying it has increased in the past year.

Digital rights issues such as data governance, safety and security are increasingly becoming of major concern to users around the continent as some governments, nefarious groups and individuals exploit these platforms to stifle, abuse and threaten the freedom of expression.

“People all around the continent are reliant on platforms like Google, Twitter, Facebook etc. to express themselves freely. Just like the European Union, the African Union (AU) in coordination with member states must play a prominent role championing issues about privacy, safety and security by engaging tech multinationals,” Sarpong stated.

“Many today consider social media platforms as public utilities and argue for some form of regulation. Self-regulation has so far failed to protect users. We need to a new approach,” he added.

Credit: iWatch Africa

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