29 August 2012

Nigeria: Curbing Social Network Indiscretion

Photo: Flickr
Internet domain


In case there were Nigerians who were still living in the age of story-telling and outdoor social bonding, the Cynthia Osokogu tragic incident awakened our collective consciousness to the reality of the new world of social media.

Especially popular among youths to whom "friend-of-a-friend" websites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Blogspot, MySpace, 2go and LinkedIn are the new cool, the social media enables users to build a pool of "friends", known or unknown, and share personal information such as pictures, contacts, occupations and interests with them.

Because social networking provides a false sense of anonymity and security due to the absence of physical contact, even hitherto socially reticent types feel free to throw a little too much information about themselves on the blogosphere. The result is a haven for the activities of cyber predators.

Not a few blamed the late Cynthia for travelling all the way from Jos to Lagos to meet a Facebook "friend" (a total stranger in real life). Others have taken to the same social media to point accusing fingers on the National Communications Commission (NCC) and other regulatory agencies for not doing enough to protect internet users. However, the frank reality is that blind dates secured through social networking are now as part of us as the social media itself; Cynthia Osokogu's was not the first and would not be the last. Happy-ending tales of how married couples met on Facebook or 2go abound on the pages of soft sell magazines and weekend tabloids as well. The cyber world is so limitless that stalkers and conmen pose a serious challenge the world over.

Do we then yield to cyber predators? No. Parents should monitor their children's online activities and teach them internet safety measures early in life. It is the only way children could grow up to become responsible internet users. Teenagers and young adults are most vulnerable because it is easy for predators to lure them into trusting by exploiting the so much information about them available online. Some in these age brackets rarely have a life outside the internet and their smart phones. The creed against falling prey is simple: Do not post online what you cannot physically tell or show to a total stranger.

The prompt arrest and arraignment by the police of the four men alleged to have murdered the 25-year-old postgraduate student. They have been remanded at the Ikoyi prisons by a Yaba Magistrates' Court, Lagos since Monday. The defendants - Okwumo Echezona, 33; Ezike Olisaeloka, 23; Orji Osita, 32 and Maduakor Chukwunonso, 25 are facing an eight-count charge of armed robbery, murder, using illegal substance and raping their victim. We commend the police for tracking and promptly bringing the suspects to face the law. Again, that the police relied on technology to succeed cautions us of this inevitable dual-purpose oxymoron.

The government should enact social laws against socio-cyber crimes such as bullying, stalking, hacking, and preying. As practised elsewhere, our security agencies should create social media departments capable of monitoring social networking trends and events. Above all, society should encourage more enjoyable and creative outdoor social activities such as sports, community development and book clubbing.

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