MPs face Facebook crackdown

Following a previous memo threatening that Facebook­ and YouTube would be blocked, MPs were yesterday­ again castigated for their abuse of parliament's­ internet bandwidth.

12 September 2018 | Government

MPs and parliamentary staff have been rapped over the knuckles for abusing bandwidth to surf Facebook and watch YouTube videos.

They also stand accused of using their official email as socialising and chit-chat platform.

Director of library and computer services, John Shimaneni, fired off an internal memo yesterday to all users of parliament's internet domain to alert them to the abuse.

“Currently we don't know exactly who is using it. We will monitor to see who the culprits are,” said Shimaneni.

In his memo, sent out to all parliament staff, managers, and MPs, Shimaneni cautioned there is too much surfing traffic to YouTube and Facebook, and that parliament is exceeding its internet capabilities.

He added it may be costly to upgrade to a faster internet line.

Shimaneni said a report on the internet activity will be handed to the relevant accounting officers, who will use their discretion to block certain sites on user computers.

“The volumes of email use is also a burden to our server storage; we are currently operating under 5% on certain drives and have to continually do some cleaning up.

“We discourage the following when it comes to the use of email: subscribing to links that the user do not use; socialising on official emails, for example, using it as a chat platform for unofficial business; replying to all when making simple comment; mass mailing of unofficial content, such as invitations to entertainment events, advertising of one's own or a friend's products, etc.,” he said.

On Monday the internet services at the parliament were down and as a result, staff and MPs could not access their emails for some time.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) chief whip, Jennifer van der Heever, said the culprits must be reported. She is, however, concerned about the announcement that emails will be monitored.

“Which legislation allows them to monitor our emails? That really concerns me a bit. There was a previous memo to caution us that they will block Facebook and YouTube. Was this not done?” she asked.

United People's Movement (UPM) MP Jan van Wyk said he feels compromised and said the party's digital information is no longer safe on the parliament premises.

“They know exactly who the culprits are but now they want to use it to cut down on our freedoms. They even blocked my Gmail account and they go into our personal accounts just as they please. How can that be safe for an opposition party?” he asked.

National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) MP Meundjuu Jahanika said he is struggling to send and receive emails.

“I have tried to Google and research the land issue for the upcoming conference, but the information was not accessible,” he said.

Swanu parliamentarian Usutuaije Maamberua said the internet is very slow, but added he is not aware that the internet can be abused.

The Social Media Use Policy and Implementation Plan for 2016/17 to 2019/20 was tabled in parliament by then information Tjekero Tweya in June last year.

The policy provides guidelines on conduct when government officials use social media networks for official purposes, with the aim of improving transparency and interaction with the public.

The code of conduct also covers the use of social media for personal purposes.

Tweya said at the time that government is required to deploy available resources and ensure that citizens have access to relevant information to make meaningful and informed decisions for the improvement of their livelihoods.

He said social media is one of the tools that government intends to use in the dissemination of information and improvement of service delivery.

The policy, Tweya said, was vital in the process of creating a transparent, effective and efficient government, in line with the national development plans, Vision 2030 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan.

At the time critics said the policy seeks to caution public officials on their use of social media, and that it is a clear indication that how public servants conduct themselves online will be far more closely scrutinised, going forward.

This was viewed as a double-edged sword.


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