IGF 2023 Lightning Talk #154 We are here too!African perspectives on social media futures

Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (02:40 UTC) - Thursday, 12th October, 2023 (03:10 UTC)
SC – Room H
Digital Divides & Inclusion

The Digitally Native Platform
Fungai Machirori - The Digitally Native Platform Chenai Chair - Mozilla Juliet Nanfuka - Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) Tigist Hussein (PhD) - Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Mandlenkosi Ndlovu - The Digitally Native Platform


Fungai Machirori - The Digitally Native Platform Chenai Chair - Mozilla Juliet Nanfuka - Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) Tigist Hussein (PhD) - Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

Onsite Moderator

Fungai Machirori

Online Moderator

Mandlenkosi Ndlovu


Fungai Machirori


10. Reduced Inequalities
17. Partnerships for the Goals

Targets: Inequality within and among countries is a persistent cause of concern. As indicated in the above sections, developed (Western) and developing (African) countries are not represented on an equal footing. While Africans are often viewed as passive (and even non-existent) consumers of social media, their Western counterparts are viewed as producers and stakeholders. Even platforms are shaped on the needs of West audiences. And calls for companies’ accountability around data protection centre on Western users’ data. To reduce inequality among countries - as per SDG 10 - there has to be equality in terms of platform relevance and accountability, and access to information to all audiences. Global partnerships, versus top-down relationships, for a more equitable digital environment will require that African perspectives and contextual issues are more greatly factored into collective action and activism. As such, this panel feeds into SDG 17 by creating space for conversations around nuanced international lobbying against the hegemony of social media companies.


This will be an informal panel where each presenter will offer brief reflections on the topic, which will be followed by engagement from the moderator and then questions from the audience. In closing, the moderator will provide closing thoughts and remarks, and a way forward.

Duration (minutes)

In the last two years, the online ecosystem has experienced multiple shifts. Among these include questions around the survival of Facebook given its stagnation among the youth in the western world and the mass ‘exodus’ of progressive Western users from Twitter following Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform. In a display of defiance against the purchase, many - primarily Western - users made it known that they would be cutting ties with the platform. This highlighted that, unlike African users, there are numerous platforms for online engagement and discourse available for Western users to migrate to. Participants will be exposed to ideas around how to make African social media data more accessible to end users and local research and policy mak and civic organisations. For example, if African social media data is made more accessible, African civic organisations can lobby more effectively for data privacy and protection for African users. Participants will also gain insights about the African sociocultural context, how Africans use social media and the challenges they may face in exiting these platforms in the ways that Westerners might not. For example, one may want to leave WhatsApp as a result of a change in their privacy policies. However, coming from a communal background, they may struggle to do so because rural family and friends - who struggle with digital literacy, data costs and access to advanced mobile devices - would be cut off from their communication networks. While it can be argued that the same alternative platforms can be accessed by Africans, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Twitter remain primary channels for civic engagement, community and movement building. Examples include how Africans have made use of these platforms to promote political causes such as #ENDSARS, #FeesMustFall, the Arab Spring and to shed light on the Tigray crisis, among other issues. Additionally, Africans use these platforms for cultural production; for example #Jerusalemchallenge, the viral South Africa Covid challange generated 53 800 instagram posts and 652,2 million TikTok views (as of May 2022). There is a loyalty to these platforms by Africans. Moreso, Africans are an important market for these social media companies given the continent’s population size and age demographic. However, Africans continue to be excluded from broader conversations about the operations and futures of these platforms. For example, Meta has been sued for data breaches in the USA and the EU, but nothing is being said about African data harvesting and use by Western social media companies. This panel will explore how social media companies and policy influencers can increase their accountability to African users while also thinking through more equitable ways of including African perspectives in conversations around the future of social media. Policy questions will be as follows: 1. How can access to African social media data be used by African civic organisations to better lobby governments and other policy actors for strengthened data protection and privacy polices? 2. How can the data gathered by platforms better inform policy in a more responsive and transparent manner? 3. How can international lobbies against social media monpolisation have better nuance around the contextual issues Africans may experience in conversations around exiting these platforms Expected outcomes include: 1. Increased lobbying by African civic organisations, policy influencers and activists for access to African data from social media companies. 2. Increased accountability of social media companies as pertains to African data 3. More nuanced approaches from international digital lobbies around the future of social media, and how different geographical audiences engage in the conversation

We will set up a digital conferencing session and ensure that there is simultaneous facilitation of offline and online comments and feedback. There will first be a roundtable of the participants who are attending the event physically where the onsite facilitator will pose questions. Thereafter, the same onsite facilitator will pose questions to the virtual panelists. This will be followed by a Q and A session which will begin with the onsite moderator taking questions from the physical audience. Thereafter, the onsite facilitator, with support from the onsite digital moderator will also take questions from the virtual audiences. We intend to use Zoom, as well as have live streaming via YouTube. This role will be taken on by the onsite digital moderator who will monitor feedback and questions that will arise there. The session would also have a hashtag to be used in conjunction with whatever other IGF hashtags will be used. The onsite digital moderator will engage with social media and also harvest any further questions and comments that emerge there for plenary discussion.