Although to an extent acts as a platform where

Although
social media has consolidated its place in our modern world as a medium of
communication, education and entertainment, these positive aspects of social
media are dampened on due to increasing terrorist activity on social media by
means of spreading messages promoting terrorism and recruiting individuals via
social media; thus, it would be useful to investigate the extent to which
social media in Africa promotes terrorism instead of activism to breed positive
changes in the society.

According
to Internet World Stats, the current population of Africa sums up to a whopping
1,246,504,865 people out of which 388,376,491 of these individuals have
internet access and are internet users in 2017. This is a beautiful fact to
look at as Africa has always been portrayed as the dark continent where most of
its inhabitants lack common knowledge about information-technology and are not
technologically inclined. As a matter of fact, Africa and Africans as a whole
have become avid users of social media over recent years, ranging from using
Facebook, Twitter and other sites such as Pinterest to connect to the world and
join in to absorb the world’s metanarrative in order to have access to the
basics of popular culture and the perks of being able to communicate with
geographically distant individuals effectively.

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However,
although the growth of social media has its perks in Africa due to encouraging
globalisation and “glocalization” as a way of creating a global village, social
media in Africa to an extent acts as a platform where radical views are spread,
spurring on terrorism instead of creating a space where advocacy for progress
is the order of the day. According to research carried out by Bertram and
Ellison (2014), it was found that “sites such as Al Shabaab’s Twitter feed have
been highly graphic in their content and both blatant in their promotion of terrorism
as a legitimate practice, and notable in how easily accessible they are for the
common Internet user.”. If to a large extent, terrorism is more of a prevalent
phenomenon on social media as compared to activism or neutrality, how far can
Africa use social media as a means of developing and moving forward as compared
to being subjected to a subliminal retrogression caused by terrorism on social
media which in turn causes mass hysteria? The answer rests in thoroughly
examining both sides of the coin and seeing how far social media has been used
for terrorism instead of activism and vice versa.

In
recent times, it can be argued that the growth of social media influence and
the perception of social media as a safe space where all opinions can be aired
due to freedom of speech has made it a breeding ground for activists who use
various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms as
an arena where they voice out their views on ongoing crises or social vices
that people are generally too afraid to address individually. Thus, the
solidarity created by social media platforms tends to empower its users who
turn it into a driving force for social change. For example, in February of
this year an incident caused widespread activism on social media – the “Marwako
Incident” that occurred at a popular fast food joint in Accra, called Marwako, caused
an uproar on social media (especially Twitter and Facebook) when the Abelemkpe
branch supervisor physically abused a female employee by pouring blended pepper
on her face after realizing she was attempting to blend pepper with a faulty
blender. This incident sparked intense condemnation and criticism on social
media after the story broke, causing online activists against abuse at the
workplace by foreigners to voice their disgust at the issue and spread their
message with various hashtags, the most popular one being “#BoycottMarwako”. The solidarity created by the use and spreading of the
hashtags and ideas via social media led to the arrest of the branch manager,
Jihad Chaaban, which could have been swept under the carpet by means of bribing
law enforcers in the country, instead of justice being sought for the victim.

This goes to show how the solidarity created by social media platforms spurs on
social change and justice to a large extent in our society.

Another
example of social media breeding activism is the online fight against Boko
Haram (a terrorist group in Nigeria that is against all things “Western”) by
individuals beyond the shores of Africa in an attempt to drive the terrorist
group out of the system in order to create a future safer environment for those
in insurgency-prone areas, as well as the victims of their insurgency. This
fight against Boko Haram was sparked when the terrorist group attacked the
Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria and kidnapped about 200
girls in the spring of 2014, causing massive media outcry from around the world
which started the famous “#BringBackOurGirls” Twitter campaign. The Twitter
campaign was backed by many notable figures in wider society such as Michelle
Obama, the ex-First Lady of the United States and other social media “clicktivists”
such as Obiageli Ezekwesili who stated that “as long as one person is still
holding out a candle for the kidnapped, we haven’t failed” (personal
communication, December 28, 2014). These social media uproars caused the
Nigerian government to feel the laden of accountability which caused them to
take greater action by beseeching assistance from nations such as France, the
United Kingdom and the United States of America. Although the efforts of the
Nigerian government did not yield enough results or cause all the victims to be
returned home safely at one go, it should be at least accepted that the efforts
of the online “clicktivists”, to a large extent, drew the world’s attention to
the plight of the kidnapped girls and their traumatised families and created
some sort of consolation for the victims’ families as the story stayed alive
through the continuous use the hashtags and various tweets that pressured the
government into adding more grease to their elbows.

References

 Africa
Internet Users, 2017 Population and Facebook Statistics. (2017). Internetworldstats.com.

Retrieved 28 November 2017, from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm

This website shows the total number of
internet users in Africa for the year 2017. It was rather helpful in aiding me
with finding statistics to back my argument, as well as aiding me to map
concepts of how far internet use has developed in Africa over time.

 

Bertram, S., & Ellison, K. (2014). Sub Saharan African
Terrorist Groups’ use of the                             Internet. Journal of Terrorism
Research, 5(1). DOI: http://doi.org/10.15664/jtr.825

 

This article focuses mainly on the terrorist activities in
Sub-Saharan Africa and how far they     
use the internet and social media to accomplish their cynical goals. The
article           conveys how the rise in
IT literacy has led to many terrorist groups in Africa such as        Al Shabaab and Boko Haram thriving to a
large extent and recruiting new members,         possibly
turning Africa into a new front in the Global War on Terror.

 

Ezekwesili, O. (2014). Obiageli Ezekwesili on the
#BringBackOurGirls Campaign for The Guardian.

Lagos, Nigeria.

This interview was
based on Ezekwesili’s views on the Boko Haram kidnappings that      occurred in Chibok, Nigeria in April
2014. This aided me as it helped to draw           a
deeper insight into the trauma caused by the kidnappings and it aided me         in gathering evidence of the impact of “clicktivism”
and how far the efforts of social   media activists spurred the government of
Nigeria into fighting             against
Boko Haram to an extent. Unfortunately, it lacked a lot of critical data.