Social media, according to Investopedia, is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content. Content includes personal information, documents, videos, and photos. Users engage with social media via a computer, tablet, or smartphone via web-based software or applications. Summarily, Oxford Dictionary, defines social media, as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. The most popular examples of social media network are Fcebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok, Instagram etc. These platforms allow us to connect with our friends, family, and even brands.
There’s no doubt that internet and social media provide people with a range of benefits and opportunities to empower themselves in a variety of ways. People can maintain social connections and networks that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, and can access more information than ever before. The communities and social interactions young people form online can be invaluable for bolstering and developing young people’s self-confidence and social skills. The benefits include building relationships, educating oneself, increasing one’s visibility, sharing one’s thoughts and expertise. Despite their numerous benefits, the dangers are also apparent, which include cyberbullying, that has led some people to commit suicide, invasion of privacy, identity theft, children seeing offensive images and messages. The dangers are numerous.
Owing to the dangers posed to the society, and since the technology is relatively new, no responsible government should stand idly by and allow its teeming citizens to be subjected to an unmitigated and unrestrained consequences of modern cyber criminality and vulgarity. New delinquencies must attract commensurate repercussions or our citizens will become the punching bag and waste paper baskets for the unbridled appetites of capitalists whose only considerations in the world of business are money and profits no matter the cost to Africa and the developing world. It is no gain saying the fact that many of these platforms are discriminatory in relation to Africa and its leaders and the entire developing world.
There’s no better explanation to this than my personal experience. One of the greatest dangers that Facebook portends to the world is that scammers are creating fake profiles of celebrities and using such profiles to defraud their fans and unsuspecting citizens of the world of their fortune through various wiles. Whereas Facebook make genuine and serious efforts towards protecting developed countries’ celebrities, leaders and citizens from these vices, it cares not at all for the protection of African celebrities, leaders and citizens from same vices. It doesn’t even have physical presence in most of these countries, especially, Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa and the most populous black nation on earth. And this is inspite the fact that it makes humongous financial fortune in these countries.
When Facebook was at its embryonic stage, I opened account with my name. Over a while, some fraudsters started opening accounts in my name and started scamming people. Whenever I reported them, Facebook disabled all accounts including my own. The fraudsters will immediately open new fake accounts and continue recruiting unsuspecting fans and friends. At a point I got fed up and left the Facebook completely. It’s unfortunate and frustrating that Facebook does not make any effort to know who the owner is. Today, the fake account has about 2.5 million followers. Just type in Kenneth Arinzechukwu Okonkwo in Facebook and you will see the fake account these scoundrels opened with my picture on it. They will make a broadcast like this: “IN THE SPIRIT OF LOVE, I DO THIS GIVE AWAY. To honour all my great fans and followers I would be giving out 20 brand new HP Laptops and 5 new Sony Plasma TV as a way of saying thank you to those who have actually been watching my movies and supporting my brand. To be a part of this offer all you have to do is; Send a direct message (via email) to me stating “KEN LOVE 2021”. Winners would be selected randomly so everyone would be eligible to participate. Goodluck.
Any unwary fan who falls into the trap and link up with them through direct message will receive this response: “Congratulations. Indeed you’ve been an active fan of mine, as a lucky participant who was chosen in my Random Give-away promo. You have just won for yourself a brand new HD laptop and plasma Tv. To Claim your prize, call mr Daniel of Ema Nig DELIVERY SERVICES on +2348094453715 and give him your parcel number (NK60885). He is available to serve you from 10am. Please note that you would be charged according to your distance if you live outside his state. Thank you”. The unsuspecting will send money for the delivery of the non-existent prize and discover he/she has been duped. It’s unfortunate that people are not very observant. How can someone promise to give you a prize of that magnitude and doesn’t have the money to despatch it to you?
On getting numerous complaints from my fans, I opened an Instagram account @realkennethokonkwo to be alerting my fans. It attracted hundreds of thousands of followers immediately. This account was hacked by the same syndicate. I tried opening another Facebook account to stop the scammers and Facebook told me that I am pretending to be Kenneth Okonkwo and that they are protecting that brand because it belongs to a popular person. Hear Facebook: “We disable accounts that pretend to belong to a well-known person or public figure because they don’t follow our Community Standards on misrepresentation. If you think we disabled your account by mistake, you can request a review”. I complied with every step requested, yet Facebook did not open the account. The truth is that they did not even take time to review my submissions. It is a shame to Facebook that they are complicit in the identity theft of an African celebrity and now giving credence to scammers who are using the stolen identity to scam others. I managed to open a new Instagram account @iamkennethokonkwo, which the scammers have tried numerous times to hack. This can only be possible in Nigeria because Facebook has no representative at all in Nigeria. If it were in US, I would walk into Facebook’s office and get this issue sorted out. Unfortunately, even as a Lawyer, I have no redress in law, because Facebook is not a juristic person in Nigeria. It is not registered in Nigeria. It has no presence at all, despite having millions of active subscribers that yield millions of dollars for them.
This brings us to the altercation between Twitter and Nigeria. Let us be clear that any attempt by any government to gag the media by whatsoever means possible, whether mainstream or social, is undemocratic and unwelcome in the 21st century. But the insistence by government that a social media network with over 40 million subscribers in Nigeria must have a presence in Nigeria cannot be faulted at all. It is the duty of government to protect the lives and property of its citizens. This is its primary responsibility. To suggest that the government should stand aloof when criminals use such networks to steal the intellectual property or identity of its notable citizens and use those identities to scam innocent people, without recourse to any remedy, legal or political, is completely out of logic. The only leverage the government has is a political and diplomatic solution and the deployment of this to the resolution of the issue of Twitter is welcome. The government should go further and insist that Facebook, the father of them all must establish a presence in Nigeria or close shop. We must reject every kind of intimidation, harassment, insensitivity of these networks to the plight of the Nigerian citizens. Corporate social responsibility implies that they should plough back to the society a fraction of the profits they derive from the society. Nigeria is a cash cow for these networks and they must learn to begin to respect us. We must also learn how to combat the negative effects of social media. Some scholars have suggested that we should be mindful of our social media habits, set limits on the amount of time we spend on social media, know when it’s time to stop scrolling, use social media to connect with people who inspire us, share similar interests, and provide a sense of belonging.
HURRAY!!! GLOBAL SQUARE IS 2!!!
It is difficult to comprehend that GLOBAL SQUARE is two years old. This translates to more than 100 articles till date. It is even more difficult to understand that our humble articles have been favourably rated by the high and mighty; the low and vulnerable; indeed by all and sundry. One distinguished Nigerian confided in us that when we started, they whispered among themselves that we will likely run out of steam within two months. They concluded that we forayed into this venture without evaluating what it entails to be a columnist. They confessed that after following us for about 3 months, they have become glued to the column and they are now praying that the column should continue forever. This can only be God. We give all the adoration, thanks and honour to the Almighty God, the Giver and Keeper of life and wisdom, for this wonderful feat. To Him alone be all the glory.
We are greatly indebted to all our readers for their steadfastness in reading our column and the incisive insights, prayers and feedback we receive from them. We would have loved to publish all their reactions to this column but we are constrained by space. However, we are comforted that one great Nigerian has summarised the essence of this column. Hear him: “I have read most of your articles in SUN newspapers, they are very excellent. You may wish to compile them in a pamphlet or book, I will be happy to buy some. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. CFR. Ahaejiagamba Ndigbo”. On receiving this soul lifting message, I quickly replied, “Good afternoon my Oga. Your message is a great motivation to me and a confirmation that my venture into the writing world is a divine call. To God be the glory and I thank you sir for appreciating my humble contribution to nation building. Please do have a pleasant day ahead sir and God bless. Kenneth Okonkwo”.