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A third of Basotho support govt regulation of internet access-survey

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Nthatuoa Koeshe

ONLY a third of Basotho support government regulation of access to internet and social media, a report by the Afrobarometer Research Institute reveals.

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa.

The survey was made shortly after the Lesotho government through the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), proposed new regulations which stipulate that individuals with more than 100 followers on social media platforms be considered as internet broadcasters and be required to register with the authorities.

Afrobarometer released the survey on Friday.

The study also found that a slim majority of the population favoured unrestricted access, which they believe helps users become more informed and active citizens.

“The LCA has proposed new rules requiring social-media users to obtain an Internet broadcasting allowance if they have 100 or more followers or post material accessible to at least 100 Internet users in the country,” reads the report.

It also said that some critics have slammed the proposed rules as a government attempt to regulate online speech.

“Among Basotho who have heard of social media, a majority says the platform has both good and bad effects, though its overall impact is more widely seen as positive than negative.

“More than half (51 percent) of Basotho strongly agree that access to the Internet and social media helps people to be more informed and active citizens, and should be unrestricted.”

The study revealed that about one-third (35 percent) of the population support regulation of access by the government and a majority (55 percent) of Basotho say they have heard about social media.

“Awareness of social media is high in cities (73 percent), among younger citizens (80 percent of those aged 18-25), and among those with a secondary (75 percent) or post-secondary (85 percent) education.

Among respondents the respondents who have heard of social media, the majority said it informs the masses about current events and enables them to have more impact on political processes. However, similar proportions say social media makes users more likely to believe false news and more intolerant of people with different political opinions.

“Overall, a plurality (47 percent) sees social media as having a positive effect on society, while 29 percent sees its overall effect as negative,” the survey found.

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