Parts of South Africa are still recovering from the severe effects of the protest action and looting that swept through the nation. These demonstrations were initially sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, but led to shopping malls, warehouses, vehicles and other properties being violently destroyed.
These events have spread like wildfire across social media platforms, which has been used as a tool to spread awareness in some cases, and encourage violent behaviour in others.
As News24 reports, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that social media was seen as a tool to instigate racial violence over the past few days, but added that it was being monitored.
The president further mentioned that portals were needed to ensure proper surveillance as well as a mechanism to put an end to racism that was brewing on social media.
According to IT Web, Sarah Hoffman, social media lawyer and co-founder of cyber safety firm Klikd said that “WhatsApp groups and social media platforms flooded with news clips, forwarded messages and videos sharing information or misinformation about the looting.
“Social media plays a pivotal role in spreading information on events like these in real-time. Due to the immediacy of the communication, people are able to mobilise extremely quickly,” Hoffman added.
On the other hand, platforms such as Tik Tok saw more people who fall within the Generation Z and Millennial age bracket become increasingly politically involved according to a 2021 report, as per IOL.
These Tik Tok users are posting videos of scorched buildings and vehicles as well as shops being looted in an effort to highlight the current state of the country and create awareness, IOL adds.
Meanwhile, in his statement to the nation regarding the looting, Ramaphosa urged people to be aware of the content they post on social media in order to curb the spread of misleading news and inflammatory messages creating panic.
“We should refrain from posting and circulating inflammatory messages on social media, and from spreading false reports that may cause further panic,” he said.
“No-one should take the law into their own hands. Rather, we should join those individuals and communities who are working with the police to prevent looting, and those members of the public who have provided tip-offs and information about instances of criminality,” Ramaphosa added.