As the world marks the 2017 Safer Internet Day today, February 7, 2017, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) calls on all stakeholders in the internet ecosystem in West Africa to work towards ensuring that the internet is safe, open and free for all online users, including children.
While internet penetration is gradually increasing across West Africa and thus, opening up endless possibilities for knowledge creation and acquisition, personal development, free expression and participation in governance processes, the risks and threats that come with being online are equally rising. These challenges threaten the resilience of the internet and the trust that users have in the platform.
Unfortunately, awareness levels about safety measures for online engagements are relatively low in the region. This has resulted in many online users falling prey to phishing, cyber bullying and stalking, creation and sharing of hate speech and other violent content. And the most vulnerable groups at risk include children whose personality and self-esteem are often damaged by such online vices.
The MFWA, therefore, calls on governments in the region to develop and implement progressive and holistic policies through multistakeholder approaches to mitigate online threats. The business community is also encouraged to provide user-friendly security features for age-specific online users. The organisation also calls for simplification of the terms and conditions associated with the use of the various online platforms, particularly social media, so users can understand the implications of their online activities.
The MFWA is also encouraging all netizens in the region to deploy the safety tips shared on the occasion of the 2017 Data Privacy Day (January 28) to protect themselves and others online.
While reaffirming its commitment to the promotion of Internet freedom in the region, the MFWA also calls on other civil society organisations to join in awareness creation processes to sensitise online users and build their capacities to use safety tools available.
“As a civil society organisation committed to internet freedom advocacy, the MFWA will continue to work with other stakeholders to promote an open, safe and free internet across the region for all persons, including children, so they can use the internet to exercise their right to freedom of expression and other human rights. Therefore, as the theme for this year’s SID says, Be the change: unite for a better internet,” the MFWA calls on other CSOs, especially those engaged in human rights advocacy to come on board this worthy cause,” Programme Manager for freedom of expression at the MFWA, Dora B. Mawutor, said.