Social media companies must be held accountable for riots in South Africa

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JACK Dorsey was the only witness at a House subcommittee hearing to say his social media platform Twitter played a role in the Capitol Riot.

On Thursday, March 25, Dorsey spoke about the role of the popular social media site in the insurgency during his testimony to Congress. His remark became the first time a senior social media official has publicly acknowledged his position in the riot.

After the deadly riot, Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook to prevent further violence.

The January 6 developments at the U.S. Capitol should have taught Twitter how to handle similar incidents before they happened again.

Sadly, South Africa experienced a similar and even worse incident which was partly inspired by social media, including Twitter.

In response to the insurgency in the United States, social media giants have banned the former US president from social media platforms.

The US Congress has asked executives of social media companies about their platform roles in the insurgency and other accountability measures may be implemented in the future.

Now that Twitter’s role is known in the chaos that took place in South Africa following the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, what to do with Twitter and the other social media platforms that fuel disinformation and are used to incite violence?

In other countries, Twitter has reportedly already been banned, but this is not an ideal approach to tackle the current challenge of disinformation, however.

Countries need to find more innovative ways to deal with platforms used to spreading misinformation that fuel violence.

One way to do this would be to establish accountability metrics for major social media platforms. At present, such accountability measures are designed for other crimes, but bad behavior by social media platforms is not controlled.

In the long term, countries need to work together to establish accountability structures that are global in nature. In the short term, countries need to establish their own accountability measures for social media companies to account for their platforms.

It should no longer be acceptable for US social media companies to report only to the US Congress. The impact of these companies is felt around the world and they must be held accountable by the global community as a whole.

It’s time to call on Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) to give South Africans an account of their role in spreading disinformation during this time of turmoil.


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