Africa and the Social Media Giants - Media Programme Sub-Saharan Africa
Over two and a half days, participants engaged each other on the practices of tech giants on the continent. Many bemoaned the apparent disinterest these companies have in ensuring that African users are protected from data theft, poor content moderation and biased internet access. The term “digital colonisation” was used and provoked important conversations about digital literacy in Africa.
KAS Media Africa Director, Christoph Plate emphasised that “it is important to hold the powerful to account over their dealings with the social networks”. This requires visible political will on the part of African leaders and legislators. The question remains, how does a continent mobilise its leaders for this purpose? Delegates also discussed how the social media is used as a vehicle for misinformation, how different generations engage with the platforms, as well as the role of social media as a tool for activism.
Zimbabwean founder of 263Chat, Nigel Mugamu said, “dialogue is important” when it comes to African countries asserting themselves as the line between tech firms in the digital scramble for Africa, and its users. Aisha Dabo, of AfricTivistes from Senegal, said that while many African nations have domestic legislation to address problematic content, as well as being signatories to critical international agreements, the implementation is lacking. This is another glaring oversight on the part of our leaders.
As a recommendation for the way forward, data engineer and scientist, Frances Haugen, formerly of Facebook, says that Africa’s best bet is to collectively participate in slowing down Facebook (and other big tech firms). She encourages countries to come together and leverage their numbers for better practices from tech companies. Haugen said that the likelihood that class action litigation will become the order of the day, when seeking to secure better online conduct from social media platforms, is very high.