The government of Cameroon says it is now stepping up its response to the growing wave of cyber crime and general misuse of social media in the country. On 12 August, it launched a nationwide campaign in this respect which is expected to run till 31 December, with the possibility of an extension.

The central African nation had raised an alarm last month about citizens - including journalists - using social media platforms to not only denigrate government officials but also to spread disinformation and other forms of rumor capable of harming the country’s peace and national unity.

Minette Li Likeng, Cameroon’s Posts, and Telecommunications Minister presided over a ceremony in the capital Yaounde on Monday to launch the campaign and said teams will be dispatched to towns and cities of the country’s ten administrative regions with messages on the dangers of peddling false information on the social media. The sensitization agents will also be giving out information to institutions on how to protect their digital spaces from unauthorized access, she added. These agents will receive training for this field exercise.

Cameroon's Telecommunications Minister speaking as she launched the nationwide sensitization campaign to fight all forms of cybercrime in the country.

Achieving genuine digital governance

“This major campaign to promote cybersecurity and raise awareness on the responsible use of social media is part of the strategy put in place by the government to fight against cybercrime and all forms of crime in cyberspace, to achieve genuine digital governance in Cameroon,” Likeng explained.

She painted a sorry picture of the situation currently prevailing in the country “…where messages to incite revolt against state institutions and fabricated images and phrases intended to misinform, sow hate and discredit the country, are freely circulated through social media, hacking websites and Facebook accounts of high-profile personalities and institutions.”

“The success of the perpetrators of these cyber crimes is based mainly on the ignorance of their victims,” she regretted, adding that “Cameroon must now strengthen its measures to promote cybersecurity by going beyond the actions that have already been taken.”

Thousands of fake accounts in Cameroon already closed

Professor Ebot Ebot Enow, Director General of the National Agency for Information and Communications Technology (ANTIC) – which is the government agency fronting the fight against cyber criminality and other cyberspace crimes in Cameroon - said the body has also been carrying out several activities especially in the domain of cybersecurity lately. He said the agency, in collaboration with its partners, has in the last couple of years identified and shut down thousands of fake social media accounts (especially on Facebook) which were being used by faceless individuals to execute the online crime.

The current campaign in Cameroon has been described by many as necessary given that in recent weeks, some of the country’s public institutions have reported cases of cyber-attacks or incidents related thereto. The electoral body, ELCAM, for instance, had its official Facebook page hacked in June with the intruders posting untrue and misleading information about the body’s operations on it.

Last month, the anti-graft agency, CONAC, warned that more and more incidents of online crimes perpetrated using platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp were on a disturbing rise. The body said then that students writing official certificate examinations were the prime target.

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