Police have warned Malawians to refrain from abuse of social media as the Electronic Transactions Act is now in full force, which among others prohibits abuse and manipulation of data.
In 2016, Malawi passed the Electronic Transactions Bill into law, which details punishment for unauthorised access, interception or interference with data, child pornography, cyber harassment, offensive communication, cyber stalking, hacking, cracking and introduction of viruses, among others.
Following the Act coming into full force, police have made several arrests in circumstances where people have reported various forms of abuses.
On Monday, Blantyre Police arrested four women for sharing defamatory content who have since been charged with prohibition of cyberstalking which contravenes Section 88 of the Electronic Transactions Act.
Blantyre Police Station spokesperson Augustus Nkhwazi, identified the four as Sharon Jumbe, 23, Claudette Hang, 23, Lonjezo Mapata, 25 and Tapiwa Munthali, 28.
According to Nkhwazi, it is alleged that the four women, who were arrested separately in Blantyre and Lilongwe, were attacking Allan Nyalo, Noel makwinja, Stain Kabango and Desire Kaipa, on WhatsApp group and Facebook page Malawi scandals.
Said Nkhwazi: “This then prompted Nyalo to approach us and report and after our investigations, we arrested the four women. Jumbe was arrested in Blantyre while the other three were arrested in Lilongwe but all on Monday.”
As of Wednesday, the women were still in custody at Blantyre Police Station, where they were making bail processes.
In a related development, the same Blantyre Police also arrested Blantyre-based Chisomo Thom, for allegedly spreading defamatory content in which he accused his ex-fiancé of being HIV positive as well as a thief who robs men after getting engaged to them.
It is alleged that before his arrest, he had been sending audio clips on WhatsApp spreading the defamatory content.
In Karonga, 34 year old Palisha Swira, was also last week fined K100 000 for spreading news that a police officer that had died was a result of defecating charcoal through audio that was being shared on social media platforms.
In the audio that was circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook, Swira alleged that the police officer had been bewitched, a development Karonga Police Station spokesperson Frank Black said caused alarm.
Following enactment of the Electronic and Transactions Act, human rights activist Billy Mayaya, said there was need for civic education for internet users in the country on the general usage of internet and social media networks and the imposed penalties.