Editorial

Begging doesn't work, use the Cybercrimes Act, JCF

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

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Several times a year, to no avail, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), through its information arm, the Corporate Communications Unit (CCU), begs members of the public to be more responsible in their use of the various social media platforms.

“The circulation of false and misleading information can create unnecessary panic in the public space; it also has the potential to incite unwarranted reactions,” is the usual refrain from the CCU in its appeal, the most recent being last week.

That appeal is always accompanied by a threat that people who commit the offence of willfully broadcasting false or misleading information, under the Cybercrimes Act and The Defamation Act, if convicted, could serve jail time.

According to the police, it has been receiving more and more complaints from members of the public that their images, along with incorrect information, are being circulated on social media networks.

The cops cited one recent case in which the image of a member of the JCF was wrongfully labelled as a criminal suspect, causing “extreme distress and severe discomfort” for law-abiding persons and their families.

Surely, by now the police must realise that their appeals are falling on deaf ears. From all indications, the circulation of offensive content of which they speak, continues to increase, rather than decrease, and in many cases, are more cruel and abusive.

In March this year, the Broadcasting Commission was pushed to urge the Government to increase its oversight responsibility beyond free-to-air electronic media to policing social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Citing growing concerns about cyber-bullying, pornography, and violent content, the Broadcasting Commission called on the Government to give it more powers of sanction by revamping legislation governing the local digital media landscape.

The commission wanted its oversight expanded to halt the use of media for the proliferation of hate speech, unethical advertising, disinformation, scamming, and terrorist recruitment. Interestingly, it expressed outrage at the loss of traditional media gatekeepers and the consequent rise in fake news, especially from unregulated online entities.

It is clear that social media is going to be part of our modern future, as far as we can see. In America, one survey reported that 84 per cent of adolescents there have a Facebook account. Over 60 per cent of 13- to 17-year-olds have at least one profile on social media, with many spending more than two hours a day on social networking sites. According to Nielsen, Internet users continue to spend more time on social media sites than on any other type of site.

On the plus side, it is a marvelous invention that has forever changed the way we communicate, using technology to facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks.

On the minus side, social media too often represent an information jungle which often makes it difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction. There is a multitude of persons who gleefully bombard us with the trash of daily human existence.

Begging them to desist is useless. Use the law against them.


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