15 Sep 2014

By Masembe Tambwe

THOUGH still low, technology and communication experts in the country are seeing signs of increased cyber crimes like bullying, harassing and stalking if the use of the internet is not controlled.
Speaking exclusively to the 'Sunday News,' the Head of Corporate Communications at the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Mr Innocent Mungy, said that whilst there are many crimes using the internet as a platform, incidents of cyber bullying are still very small.
 
"Due to ignorance, a lot of people today think when they have been swindled online through various social media, they have been cyber bullied but this isn't so.
 
There are certain elements that qualify as bullying and evidence shows the levels are still small but will increase with time," he said. Stopcyberbullying.org website defines cyber bullying as when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
 
It has to have a minor on both sides or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyber stalking.
 
Adult cyber-harassment or cyber stalking is never called cyber bullying. In a recent incident that left a young lady dead and that created quite a stir in many social media networks, many users christened the incident as 'cyber bullying' calling various authorities to take action.
 
Mr Mungy said that there was no law in the country that is specific to cyber bullying because the law is universal and that irrespective of where a person is insulted or degraded, whether on the sidewalk or online, it is against the law and therefore punishable.
 
"Whilst cyber bullying is seen to be at a minimal, cyber stalking and harassment is something we are increasingly seeing on social media, cases of cyber bullying can be sought at the cyber crime unit of the police," he said.
 
According to Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria website, cyber harassment is not just about being teased - it's repeated behaviour that is designed to humiliate, control or scare the person being targeted and is not legal or alright, while if someone keeps contacting you on Facebook or any kind of online site and it's making you scared and upset, it sounds like you're being stalked.
 
Mr Mungy said that as a country, Tanzania has leapfrogged technology and that technology advancement and development is catching up with us instead of the other way round.
 
"The challenge to stop these crimes starts with us and the media; they have to play a part in this. At the moment it is not a catastrophe because only between 17 and 20 per cent are internet users mostly aged between 18 and 25 and these are abusers," he said.
 
He cautioned users to be careful who they befriend online because one can't guarantee identity. Online, he noted, there are predators, bad people, thieves, prostitutes, con artists who use it as a platform to do what they would have done physically. "Our online presence affects our being, meaning that our character profile.
If you upload inappropriate pictures, people will harass you and later you will come to claim that you were bullied yet you caused it, let's be smart, use communication for good, it's good to make friends online because having an enemy online can be your enemy physically," he advised.
 
A cyber crime expert, Mr Sebastian Marondo, said that one advantage cyber bullies have is that they can operate under the anonymity of not being able to be seen.
 
"Cyber bullying unlike ordinary bullying is a practice that's difficult to control given the fact that it relies on the internet and like other forms of technology that require communication or sending files.
The government is supposed to enact laws protecting internet users, mobile phone subscribers from fraudsters, stalkers and in general unwelcomed callers," he urged.
 
He called on mobile phone companies to create platforms for reporting and penalising callers who misbehave in mobile communication. For instance, telecom companies can block numbers that have been identified as abusive to others.
 
The Dar Teknohama Business Incubator Chief Executive Officer, Eng. George Mulamula, told this paper that schools can be very effective brokers in working with parents to stop and remedy cyber bullying as well as educate students on cyber ethics and laws.
 
Eng. Mulamula commended TCRA for doing a good job in trying to educate the public on the correct use of digital communication technologies and have even gone on road shows around the country, educating users on best practices on the use of cell phones and the internet.
 
"Parents can help stop cyber bullying. You can start by talking to kids about the issue and teaching them the rules that will help prevent cyber bullying from happening to them or someone they know," he advised.
 
During the first ever cyber crime conference in Dar es Salaam earlier this year, the government said it is planning to enact three laws on data, internet business and cyber crime in a bid to eradicate cyber crime in the country.
 
SOURCE: Daily News

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