Sierra Leone: Government Engages Facebook

One of the world's widely used social media platforms, Facebook, on Monday 13th October 2019 met with multiple stakeholders in government in the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications, Youyi Building, Freetown.

Receiving Adoara Ikenze, Facebook's Head of Public Policy Anglophone West Africa, Minister of Information and Communications Mohamed Rahman Swaray said sometime in 2018 he reached out to Facebook authorities to discuss vital issues relating to digital literacy and cybercrime, among others.

He said as a nation Sierra Leone has had what he referred to as the best and worst sides of Facebook and expressed concerns over the manner in which certain individuals misuse the platform which he described as a double edged sword.

Minister Swaray particularly bemoaned the use of a photo of a young Sierra Leonean who sometime ago suffered from a gruesome motorbike accident by an "ill motivated" media practitioner who took it from his page on Facebook and displayed it as part of what he claimed to be the atrocities committed by the New Direction government, which was further printed on posters and displayed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He cited it as just one of the many misuses of the platform by certain people.

Minister Swaray added that there are people who use the platform to express grievances over political defeats, using fake profiles to attack people's personality which he said has become an issue of concern especially in matters of national security.

He asked that people use the Facebook platform to consolidate peace and security to sanitize society and not be undermining state security and trampling on the rights of others.

He however acknowledged that Facebook is a very vital platform that does not seek to destabilize countries or create mayhem but enhance social interaction for which he was gratified.

Responding, Adoara Ikenze said her responsibility is to bridge the gap between what Facebook represents and what it has to put out to the world, adding that Africa is a sensitive continent considering the systems of governance that they operate on.

She stated that Facebook is a responsible entity and will continue to own up to its responsibilities in terms of the way people use the platform. She furthered that the emergence of Facebook in Africa is like giving a loaded gun to children, because Africa has a very low population of digital literacy so people have the liberty to say whatever they like, engage whoever they like, having the sense of animosity.

As a company, she said they are happy to work with the government of Sierra Leone to ensure that government understands that Facebook takes up responsibility of how its users use their application, and see that people using the platform are properly educated on their rights and responsibilities as well.

Madam Ikenze disclosed that Facebook has rolled out series of programs in other West African countries such as digital literacy programs for primary and secondary schools, online safety for children in which they work directly with governments to handle right violation of children and other issues related to cybercrime.

She hoped for a fruitful partnership with the Ministry of Information and Communications of Sierra Leone to see that they connect with the public and private sectors to enhance a better and productive use of their platform.

The meeting attracted cabinet ministers from various ministries, the security sector, and other key stakeholders who discussed the way forward for solid partnership for digital transformation in the country.

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