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Re-Examining Somalia's Social Media Narrative: A Perspective from Former Telecom Minister
By Mohamed Ibrahim
Friday September 1, 2023

On August 30th, 2023, I posted a short piece on Facebook  (https://tinyurl.com/4wnwhwfp) that sparked an unprecedented reaction from my followers on social media. While some suggested that I should take it down, I politely declined, opting instead to elaborate further on the subject and initiate a conversation that could potentially alter the prevailing narrative on social media regarding Somalia and its contentious usage of this platform.   

To comprehend the issue at hand, some background information is necessary. A few weeks ago, a two-page directive from a Somali ministry circulated on social media, followed by what appeared to be an interview on an online TV platform. Initially, I dismissed it as fake news. However, to my astonishment, it was genuine. Hence, to echo and paraphrase George Orwell, in an era of false arguments and misinformation, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act. I contacted several friends and acquaintances in Somalia to brainstorm potential solutions. My interest in this matter stems from a sense of national duty as a Somali citizen. From a broader perspective, it can be viewed through the lens of a global citizen and as an academic concerned with the ethical use of technology, particularly in preventing major tech corporations from exploiting their market power.

The Problem

Social media platforms are linked to a host of issues that pose significant threats to our community. These platforms are engineered to be highly engaging and addictive, often promoting sensational, controversial, or divisive content. Here are a few key dangers: Exposure to Radical Content,  Privacy Concerns

Misinformation and Disinformation , Mental Health Impact and  Erosion of Community Values: Constant exposure to content that may not align with the values of a conservative community can lead to the gradual erosion of those values over time. This can create tension within the community and ultimately lead to its fragmentation.

Thus, social media platforms  pose significant risks to our community, including exposure to radical content, privacy concerns, the spread of misinformation and disinformation, mental health impacts, and the erosion of community values. It is crucial for both government officials and individuals to be aware of these risks and take initiative-taking measures to mitigate them.

The 1XBET Case

1XBET presents a separate set of challenges to the Somali communities. Islam prohibits gambling, and the promotion of such services can lead to social, economic, and legal problems within the community. Additionally, gambling can lead to addiction, financial problems, and serve as a gateway to other forms of addiction and criminal activities. Targeted advertising by gambling services like 1XBET may also exploit vulnerable individuals or communities.

 Suggested solution

The increasing proliferation of gambling services promoted on social media platforms presents significant challenges for governments and communities worldwide. These services are easily accessible and can have detrimental effects on individuals and society as a whole. Addressing this issue necessitates a comprehensive approach involving community leaders, government authorities, and telecommunication service providers. To address this issue effectively, there needs to be a collaborative effort among community leaders, government authorities, and telecommunication service providers to develop and enforce regulations that restrict the promotion of gambling services on social media. Education and awareness campaigns can help inform individuals about the potential risks of gambling and the importance of responsible social media usage.

Short Term Strategy

In the short term, regulating the telecommunication sector in a coherent and credible way is essential. Those who import goods to the country or provide services must ensure the safety and security of their products. This is a non-negotiable, unambiguous matter that requires the application and enforcement of the country's rules and laws. Easy solutions exist to block unwanted content without blocking the internet or negatively impacting the whole country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. The telecom sector should ensure their products and services are fit for purpose and lack defects, a basic definition of quality.

International Law and Local Content Creators

While social media platforms are not based in Somalia, international law can help deal with this current issue. However, it is crucial to ensure that many local online content creators are aware that the laws are applicable whether they commit a crime in Bakahara street, via a YouTube channel, or even as an avatar on a website in the deep or dark web. If the issue is a lack of knowledge or expertise, there are many highly qualified ICT professionals within the country and many more in the diaspora who can help

Top of Form

To conclude, social media platforms  pose significant challenges to our community. Therefore, the Somali government must tackle this issue urgently and sensibly. It is also essential for individuals, community leaders, universities  and telecommunication service providers to be aware of these risks and collaborate to develop initiative-taking strategies to address them. This will help ensure the responsible use of technology and protect the well-being of our community. The Somali government can and should sue anyone who breaks the law, whether a local company or a multinational company on the metaverse using web3 technology, the rule based world order (for the time being) works. However, the local laws must also work, and be seen to work.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Former Somali Telecom Minister. Currently  Ai, digital currencies and web3 Researcher at Swinburne University, Australi

Comments and feedback welcome- here are my digital footprints:

https://somalia.substack.com/ http://kajm.net/ https://www.facebook.com/mib2020

https://twitter.com/misomalia https://www.youtube.com/c/Mi2020   https://www.linkedin.com/in/mi2000/ 

https://www.instagram.com/mwze2020/ https://icannwiki.org/Mohamed_Ibrahim 


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