Somalia's Federal Government Has Officially Declared To Ban The Social Media Apps, Tiktok, Telegram And Online Betting Platform 1xbet

Somalia Somalia's Federal Government Has Officially Declared To Ban The Social Media Apps, Tiktok, Telegram And Online Betting Platform 1xbet
AUG 29, 2023 LISTEN

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA: The ban comes in a wake of a communication, internet, social media and security conference organized by the Ministry, which led the directive. In a bewildered and controversial move, the Somali federal authorities has declared it categorically ban the use of Tiktok, the Chinese app, the widely used short form video platform and Telegram, an instant messaging application within Somalia.

The resolution made by the federal Ministry of Telecommunications, post and technology that raise eyebrows and smell the rat locally and globally and has intensified concerns and trepidations and question about its profound implications or far-reaching repercussions.

In an official statement issued on Sunday, the Ministry cited security concerns over the potential use of these digital platforms by the Alshabab group who had waged a ferocious onslaught, suicide bombings, guerilla warfare, hit and run attacks, frequent ambushes and assassinations in and around Mogadishu use these platforms to brainwash, radicalize the youth and disseminate its propaganda, fake news and extremist ideology and that are main reasons behind the ban as verified by the Minister.

However, obfuscations and concerns over the real motives behind it have since continued to foster although, the government has given security to be the main motive behind the decision, yet plethora believe that these trepidations may merely serve as a convenient pretext to ban.

Experts also suggest that the move could be part of a broader strategy by the government to curb and tackle the flow of information, censor and suppress dissent and critics across the country.

The move comes amidst growing iration or vexation among the federal authorities and leaders about the sharp increase of viral videos, targeting prominent political figures, specifically short video clips mocking or taunting the top echelons and humorously highlighting verbal blunders and awkward statements made by the Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre.

In recent weeks, the eminent Tik-tokers and superstars had reported the maximum pressure they were exerted and harassment and intimidations from the government officials.

In a series of incidents, Video clips including speech errors of the president and awkward remarks by the Prime Minister, were utterly manipulated to create humorous and satirical memes. The videos, which were turned into internet memes have turned political discourse into viral comedic contents.

On such recurrent and ridiculous instance shows Tiktok users lip-syncing to mispronounciation of written Arabic speech by president Mohamud, during the recent Arab league summit in Jeddah, the video clip titled "Buldanana" the Arabic term derived from the president's speech, characterized by repetitive pausing and frequent halting readings and speech errors has garnered millions of views on Tiktok.

It also showed, the health Minister Ali Haji, who dithered or vacillated a lot and finally failed to offer response into English while attending summit, all these incidents appear to have provoked an ire or irked and also add insult to injury among Somali leaders and ultimately leading to the ban of the platform.

However, the vitriolic critics and opposition officials contend that the government's move represent an efforts to stifle or muzzle dissent and suppress its expressive voices of the younger generation who have increasingly turned to social media as a means to voice their concerns and viewpoints.

As a result, the ban has ignited or sparked a heated debates about the role of social media in shaping the public and intellectual opinions and the political discourse within the nation.

The timing of the ban, which coincides the staggering alarm raised by Somali leaders over the thriving number of viral videos lampooning leaders has deepened suspicions among the public that the government is attempting to tighten its grip over the public discussion.

Tik-tok's popularity has increased in Somalia over the past few years, specifically among the youth population. 70% of the Somali population are youth under the age of 35 and mostly remain unemployed for months and years and consider these platforms to be the only source of income and making it a powerful tool for political engagement and commentary.

Meanwhile, the ban has incited substantial public discourse concerning the impact of social media platforms on shaping public opinion and political discourse in the country, these tools has become source of entertainment, incitement and offensives.

The Somali government's move which also raises questions about the competency to adapt to the digital age and evolving communication methods had encountered pervasive excoriation from activists, tech savvy, influencers and even some lawmakers who view it as a flagrant breach of citizens' constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

In light of the intense public scrutiny and questions revolving around the discussion, the standing or steering parliamentary committee of information, awareness, culture, post and telecommunications has summoned the minister and inquired an intriguing questions.

In its summoning letter, committee requested the minister to appear before the parliament On August, 27 and address questions and concerns associated to the decision made by the Ministry which has prompted a broader assessment of the delicate balance between security concerns and the fundamental liberties that serve as the bedrock of Democratic societies.

The ban blocking Tik-tok and Telegram apps which has already sparked pervasive denunciation across Somalia and beyond, has triggered discussions on the potential threats that other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram where Somali are openly criticizing the government widely use could face.

In a digital age where information, news and stories spread at unprecedented pace, experts note that the Somali government's attempt to censor and control the narrative has faced a significant challenges from technopreneurs, technophiles and tech savvy citizens determined to maintain their online presence, while others openly uttered to divert the VPN which facilitate them to change their online locations and also render their internet activities anonymous and also makes harder to be tracked them online.

But Somali government officials argue that while humans has always been a part political commentary, the boundaries have been transcended with the unprecedented reach of platforms like Tik-toks, an official who spoke to ModernGhana on condition of anonymity expressed grave concern about how Tik-tok has been used to undermine the government through humorous and ludicrous, yet potentially damaging and character assassination contents.

As ,the news of the Tiktok and Telegram ban spread outrageous reactions among the public who have been venting their frustration and criticism. Many view the ban as an infringement of freedom of expression and unfair restrictions imposed on Tik-tok.

The decision was made in accordance with articles 64 and 65 of the national Telecommunications law, which gave the MOCT, The full authority to investigate, scrutinize and suspend any service that is ' in conflict with the good manners of the society or public and principles of Islamic law" or threatens national security according to the minster Jama Hassan Khalif, the three mobile apps mentioned above had allegedly impacted the moral behaviors of the younger generation in the country and been the source of " explicit content" and 1XBET Gambling online or betting platform had turned our youth to gamble addictives and some had taken their own lives through gambling. And internet service providers are given until August 24 to implement the compliance measures.

On the other hand, the self-proclaimed president of Somali Tik-tokers " nervous about his financial future " Bilal Bulshawi one of the prominent faces on Somali social media says the app has diametrically transformed his life. Before there were many times when I couldn't afford to pay for Tuk-tuk ride but now I drive my own car and enjoy luxury and lavish lifestyle, I travel to diverse Somali regions and overseas for tourism, Bilal told ModernGhana.

He started using the platform when he was 18 years-old, high school student making short comedy videos with his classmates but the popularity of his films snowballed and they have now become his main source of income

Bilal makes money by advertising businesses on his platforms account, which has 1.3 million followers, the adverts generate between $500 and $1000 a week, he uses the money to pay rent expenses, purchase variety of commodities and also pay his mother's bills

My mother stop working, she raised me while working as a nurse and when I started my social media, I let her respite: using a Somali expression he says the government ban will have adverse and detrimental impact on our lives, alluding that he is the only breadwinner of the family.

The government determined to go ahead with the controversial plan to prevent access to Tik-tok,along with Telegram and gambling app 1XBET. It argues that these platforms have aided and abetted terrorists and extremist groups responsible for disseminating propaganda and horrific images and others who are morally bankruptcy and willing to decimate and dismantle our core moral values.

The ban coincided with as the federal government is set to declare the completion of phase one of the operation and the launch of the second offensives to deracinate the remnants of Alshabab insurgents which still dominates large swathes of territory. Hafso Hilkas is another creator who is now feeling anxious.

She started using Tik-tok a year ago and she routinely shows comedy sketches, pranks and entertainment videos on her account, within three months she had garnered or capitalized more than half a million followers and then started her own online business on the app selling cosmetics.

The 19-years-old achieved success that enabled her to became a female entrepreneur and financially independent and move out of her family home. Now she is apprehensive that she will lose her independence the moment the government's authorization is implemented or come into effect.

Over the past few years Tik-tok has become the most popular social media platform in Somalia and the diaspora.

Samira Mohamed a University student confesses that she spends many hours on Tik-tok, but she vehemently agrees that some of the contents disgraces the dignity of Somali girls, this is because the platform has been applied to advertise uncensored, sexually explicit contents or porn videos which is then available to watch Via Telegram.

There is also an issue of cyber-bullying, blackmailing others by posting obscene, embarrassing vidoes to verbally harassed and psychologically traumatized others.

It is all about sharing and disgracing people intentionally and deliberately tarnishing their images. It is damaging people’s values and mostly girls are so susceptible for predators willing to exploit them sexually, while others are advocating and inspiring girls to remove their Hijab that means girls should expose their genitals publicly. She said.

Contrary to Samira's viewpoint, Tik-tok user Zakariye Mohamed believes that the app gives young people opportunities after the government failed to create peaceful and conducive environment for them to find employment, he also decried the overall recruitment process of the state institutions specifically civil services basing their recruitment on nepotism, favoritism and cronyism and disregarding merit-based recruitment system.

It is source of income for both academic and non-academic youth, it also deviates young people from joining the gangs, Zakariye asserted clearly.

Mohamed Hussein Mentalist: A Journalist, author, researcher and senior lecturer based in Mogadishu.

Mohamed Hussein Mentalist
Mohamed Hussein Mentalist

East Africa correspondent of ModernGhana. Page: MohamedHusseinMentalist