Somalia has banned video platform TikTok, messaging app Telegram, and online betting website 1XBet to combat the spread of indecent content and propaganda.
The ban was announced by Somalia’s Minister of Communications, Jama Hassan Khalif, in an effort to curb the use of these platforms by terrorists and immoral groups to spread harmful imagery and false information to the public.
The order was issued to internet service providers, who have until August 24 to comply with the ban. The decision comes in the wake of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s statement that a military offensive against the armed group al-Shabab aims to eliminate the al-Qaeda-linked organisation within the next five months.
Al-Shabab, known for their activities conducted often in the shadows of the internet, has found platforms like TikTok and Telegram as perfect tools to spread their ideology and recruit new members. Videos and messages showcasing their violent actions and extremist agenda have become a recurring presence on these platforms, allowing them to reach a wider audience and potentially inspire others to join their cause.
While the ban on these platforms is primarily aimed at countering the activities of al-Shabab and other extremist organisations, it is also a step towards protecting the public from the harmful effects of misinformation. In an age where news is shared at unprecedented speeds through social media channels, the dissemination of false information can have detrimental consequences, causing panic, confusion, and even inciting violence.
TikTok, being one of the most popular video-sharing platforms among young people, has been under increasing scrutiny over the content it allows to be shared on its platform. With concerns ranging from inappropriate and explicit content to the spread of misinformation, the ban in Somalia aligns with a global sentiment that platforms like TikTok need to take greater responsibility in moderating their content.
Reaction from TikTok, Telegram, and 1XBet users
The recent announcement of a potential ban on TikTok in Somalia has sparked widespread reactions from users of the popular social media platform. TikTok, known for its short-form videos and content creation, has gained a significant following in Somalia, and many individuals have built careers and livelihoods through the platform. The proposed ban has therefore attracted attention and concern from users who rely on TikTok for income or to promote their products.
One of the individuals expressing their opposition to the ban is Abdulkadir Ali Mohamed, who has earned the title of Somalia’s “TikTok President”. Mohamed highlights the impact that a ban would have on households that rely on the income generated from TikTok. For many individuals, the platform has become a lifeline, enabling them to provide for their families and meet their daily needs. Mohamed’s concern for the well-being of many households in Somalia echoes the sentiment of numerous TikTok users in the country.
Another user, Halimo Hassan, who sells gold on TikTok, shares similar worries about losing customers if the ban comes into effect. TikTok not only serves as a source of income for individuals like Hassan but also enables them to reach a wider audience and expand their customer base. Hassan, however, advocates for a more nuanced approach, urging the government to allow TikTok while maintaining a degree of control over its usage in the Somali cultural context. This perspective highlights the need to strike a balance between promoting economic opportunities and preserving cultural values.
In addition to TikTok, another platform that is popular among Somali users is Telegram. Telegram is a messaging app known for its encryption and privacy features, which attracts users who prioritise security.
Many Somalis rely on Telegram as a means of communication and have expressed concerns about potential restrictions on their access to this platform.
The proposed ban has therefore raised questions regarding the availability of alternative communication methods and the impact it could have on users’ ability to connect with each other.