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Group calls for the criminalization of social media publications

A group by name, We The People Matter Movement, a policy think tank is calling for the amendment of the Constitution to criminalize malicious publications on Social Media platforms.

According to the group, “Social media is now part of our daily lives. 
There is not a day that any of us abstain from visiting our social media account(s): WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. 
These are places that we tend to read news, socialize, and make connections with new people.

In fact, social media has led to business/contract deals, marriages, and all other various positive outcomes”
The group made this call in an article authoured by the Executive Director, Dr. Sa-ad Iddrisu. 

The group is of the view that criminalization of publications on Social Media will serve as a deterrent to people who mount the platform to malign innocent people in society.  

The group is, however, contesting that if it was always about the good, then there would have been no need for this article, captioned.

“ Social Media and Defamations: how effective is our justice system?”
Even in the midst of  COVID-19 pandemic, “defamations and character assassinations on Social Media are still trending”, the Convenor argued.

Personalities in government, politics, media, judiciary, academia, creative arts and all sectors, have been defamed or have endured character assassination on Social Media but a law against this in Ghana is nonexistent, Dr. Iddrisu stressed.

Below is unedited article authoured by Dr. Iddrisu advancing the call for criminalization of Social Media publications. 

Social media and defamations: How effective is our justice system?

Social media is now part of our daily lives. There is not a day any of us abstains from our social media account(s): WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. 

These are places we tend to read news, socialize, and make connections with new people. In fact, social media has led to business/contract deals, marriages, and all other various positive outcomes. 

However, had it always been good, there would be no need for this article. Defamations and character assassinations have become the new norm on social media. Even in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, defamations and character assassinations on social media are still trending daily. Personalities in government, politics, media, judiciary, academia, creative arts and all sectors, have been defamed or endured character assassination on social media, but a law against this in Ghana is nonexistent.

Before I get into the law aspects, let me tell you a brief story. I remember around January this year when my friend sent me screenshot messages on WhatsApp detailing how friends’ of his ex-partner wrote defamatory remarks about him on their Facebook page. His first emotional instinct was to get involved in the drama with a reply. 

However, I advised him to think rationally and consider the benefits of his reply to such lies and defamation. Mind you, this was a relationship that he ended in 2018, but the ex’s and her group of friends dragged him with defamations in 2019 and 2020 with Facebook and WhatsApp posts. 

In fact, the 2019 incidences ended up at the Dakpema Chief Palace in Tamale after he got fed up and threatened to expose them. An amicable solution was found by the Chief and the elders and the matter was laid to rest.

However, as predictable as the ladies were, 2020 gave them another opportunity to continue their annual rituals and unleash their bitterness again at the said friend.

As I sat quietly thinking about my friend’s situation, I contemplated how I could be of help. I called a Lawyer and Judge in Accra to see if they could help my friend take legal action on the said lady who wrote the Facebook post. 

Upon examining our case, their feedback suggested law on social media in Ghana is nonexistent. If you brought such person(s) to court, there was high possibility they would deny such Facebook accounts ever been theirs. The case further becomes difficult when proving such accounts truly belonged to them in court. 

This is more so as people tend to create a bunch of fake accounts with pictures of innocent people. This makes your court case a “foolish case”. 

In some instances, if the person(s) truthfully admit in court that they own such social media account, then it becomes another case of constant adjournment in court until you reach a point that you are frustrated in wasting your time in court – another “foolish case” in the end. 

The lawyer mentioned a lot of defamatory cases of this nature that ended in the courts and metamorphosed into “foolish cases.”

The only time defamatory lawsuits were won in our courts was when those statements were made by a media station (either print or electronic) against an individual or if there was a video or audio recording of such defamatory remarks. Even with this, it could take years or decade(s) before such cases were heard in court, thus wasting the individual’s time and money pursuing such a case in court. In other words, justice delayed is justice denied.

As we listened to this legal advice, I realized that we are living in an animal kingdom with the inception of social media if citizens cannot seek legal redress in court for cases of social media defamations and get fast track judgment. Our lawmakers should take a review of our justice system and incorporate social media laws. A changing society demands changing laws. 

Laws that scare people from hiding behind their phones to type gibberish regarding other’s personalities on social media – knowing very well that their remarks are defamatory in nature. I am calling on the Attorney General, Justice Minister, Ghana Bar Association, and all legal experts in the country to review our laws and court system to meet current societal transformations. 

Until that is done, you the one reading this, know that you are a potential victim of someone’s fingers behind his/her phone waiting to press send. Today it’s my friend, tomorrow it can be you. Exhibit rational thinking rather than emotional thinking if you become a victim to this unfortunate trend of social media defamation.

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