Malawi Struggles with Misinformation on Social Media
Updated: May 11, 2020
The advent of COVID-19 in Malawi has led to an increase in misinformation in the country. In response, the Malawian Communications Authority (MACRA) expressed its alarm at the proliferation of misinformation on social media. MACRA published a statement warning citizens after a number of incidents where social media users publicised unauthorised personal information identifying individuals infected with COVID-19. The regulatory authority warned citizens that the publication of personal information without the data subject’s consent is prohibited as a breach of privacy rights under the Constitution and s84 of the Electronic Communications and Cybersecurity Act. In addition, MACRA urged social media users to refrain from spreading unverified information related to COVID-19 and to exercise vigilance on coronavirus-related communications which might be phishing attempts by cybercriminals.
A positive and recent development, however, is the implementation of e-learning programmes after the Ministry of Education concluded an agreement with the mobile operator TNM to zero-rate access to online learning while educational institutions are shut (to prevent transmission of COVID-19). The Ministry also announced its collaboration with other partners in the telecommunications sector to find innovative solutions while education is disrupted during the pandemic. The Minister also invited organisations who are not yet engaged to join the e-learning initiative. As Malawi has an internet penetration rate of only 14.2% of its population (at December 2019), radio and television broadcasts are also important components of the initiative.