Zec seeks social media regulation

Istanbul, Turkey - September 18, 2015: Apple Iphone 6 screen with social media applications of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Instagram, Whatsapp, Periscope, Perisfind, Linkedin, Youtube, Viber, Messenger, Periscope, Find Friends.

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is advocating for a ban on the use of social media in circulating electoral issues, claiming the platforms churned out “poison” during this year’s disputed polls.

By Brenna Matendere

This was revealed by Zec’s director of voter education, Taurai Gavi, during a post-election media review workshop in Bulawayo on Thursday.

Social media refers to websites and applications that are designed to allow people to share content quickly, efficiently, and in real time.

These include WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

In his presentation on the electoral body’s assessment of media coverage for the July 30 elections, Gavi bemoaned the absence of a regulation to deal with social media.

“The non-existence of a regulation to stop social media from meddling in electoral processes and thereby feeding lies to the nation is one of our top concerns following what happened in the last election. The social media literally spread poison by way of several misconceptions and lies during the election,” he said.

Gavi said Zec would approach Parliament to enact a law to effectively deal with social media before the 2023 harmonised elections.

“We need serious regulation of social media by way of a law and Zec is going to lobby parliamentarians to ensure such a piece of legislation is put in place ahead of the 2023 elections,” he said.

During the last elections, social media circulated what was believed to be evidence of vote-rigging.

In some instances, social media also issued out photos of documents that showed irregularities of Zec processes, including what appeared to be tampered results.

Contacted for comment over the intended social media ban, MDC Alliance spokesperson Jacob Mafume slammed the electoral body’s proposal.

“If they could not run an election properly, what makes them think they can control social media? There will emerge forms of that media that he does not understand at all,” he said.

“The issue is they did not do things properly from registration onwards and that the election ended up in shambles and the results not worth the paper they were announced on.”

Veteran journalist and media trainer Vincent Kahiya said there was no way Zec could legislate against opinion.

“Zec must just invest more in its results management system which in last elections created a lot of anxiety among citizens due to its laxity,” he said.

“Zec must also accept that these are modern times and technology is moving fast. So instead of trying to regulate social media, Zec must actually use the same communication vehicle to announce election results.

“We need to see Zec using WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, for example, to announce results and dispel misconceptions. The analogue system that Zec is using in this day is no longer very efficient.”