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Content creation, prank, or internet abuse?

By Ejike Anyaduba

The internet is perhaps one of the worst abused inventions by man. Some netizens who live on its extremities, against the dictates of good conduct, take liberties with the global computer network to invade and abuse targets at will. Matters, considered “hallowed” and muted in conversation offline, get trivialized on the net. The risk of libel, obviated by identity question, makes discretion by these users a matter of choice rather than an obligation.

But the internet is far too important to be used for trifling fancy where everyone speaks, writes or acts in a vague or trivial manner. It is intended for learning, ease of doing business, entertainment and for unrestrained access to information. It is an innovative and user-friendly network, but can groan when abused to purpose. The internet has brought development closer to man and shrunk the global space into a village.

Before its advent on January 1, 1983, access to information was quite challenging. Though a disruptive technology with obvious drawbacks, especially in being hacked, cyber-attacked and inflicting on users Internet Addiction Disorder (the latter easily isolates users into their own filter bubbles and echo chambers), yet the internet has successfully swept away old systems and habits, replacing them with effortless communication and endless education.

Unfortunately, a tribe of deviant users, sworn to abuse, has swarmed the global communication network and seized it to unhealthy advantage. Overwhelmed by the desire to be monetized on Facebook or to achieve celebrity status or both, they have consistently exposed unsuspecting users to obscene videos on the net. Often on preset mode, these videos automatically switch on at the touch of a button. It does not stop at this, they go as far as invading, with repulsive pertinacity, the privacy of others by highlighting, tagging and private-chatting unwilling users.

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I once stumbled on a video by one of such internet trollers who was barely dressed in a frilly underwear, energetically advertising a sexually explicit trade. I flipped through and shrugged her off as vacuous. But I chanced upon her again in another video not long after while surfing the net. She was more audacious this time. Bell in hand, and with no want of shame, she reeled off her telephone number, urging potential customers to hurry up for an intimacy with her. She claimed a dalliance with her is the solution to all the spiritual problems afflicting many. In yet another video she was seen threatening and cursing a select audience. She was angry. Her music video was not enjoying as much patronage as the one for which she has become notorious. She accused her audience of wickedness and singled out the Igbo – a group she claimed undoubted descent – for reprimand. She alleged they deliberately ignored her music videos while sharing the lewd ones. So far nothing has yet changed to suggest she learnt any lesson from the subtle action of her audience.

She is not alone in the salacious trade. There is another abuser of the internet, more vulgar and loutish perhaps. She is simple-minded, brassy, and has little of a tinker’s cuss in chasing “content creation”. In a recent video, she was seen walking around a market with a placard, boldly urging women not to refuse intimacy with men and to do so with all contentment. As she ambled along the market apparently in search of a mate herself, bystanders were seen shuddering with dismay. Unperturbed, she kept displaying the disgusting placard with affected glee. However, a quick check on her page shows she has been long in the business of making obscene videos. If she were not vulgarizing sex, she was eroticizing it. She once accused a popular Nollywood actor of having taken advantage of her and abandoned her soon after she became pregnant. She thrives on vulgarity.

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The list of abusers of the internet is endless. There are also adepts in highlighting offensive videos for a target audience. This line of abusers is so obsessed with how to increase traffic to their page that they deploy every conceivable weapon to cyberbully other users. There are those who concoct lies to malign real and imagined enemies. Many have had to contend with image problem as a result of willful defamation. A particular restaurant in Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria, was once alleged to be serving python meat. Before the mischievous imp was intercepted by the law enforcement agents to disclaim the allegation a lot of damage has been done to the image of the eatery. A lot more have continued in that line of pranking or content creation business to the detriment of innocent victims. Many a politician has been defamed and put through the wringer by content chasers and paid agents. Election season often provides these cheeky denizens of the internet the rope with which to hang opposition candidates. Sadly, many have suffered this fate, but only very few have had the courage to fight the monster and exacted justice.

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Not long ago, in another display of presumptuousness, another clout chaser nearly almost dragged the names of managers of real estate firms in Awka through the muds. She claimed to have slept with every one of them in the course of doing business. Without a thought for her reputation as a comedienne she told the barefaced lie in a wildly circulated podcast. But she didn’t get lucky with her lies. She was hunted down by the maligned estate managers and put through the mill. She cracked under the weight, recanted and tendered unreserved apology.

There are a lot more out there who do worse things on the net. They presume upon the inaction of the victims and the privacy of the internet to expand the frontiers of abuse. It is a fact that catfishing, another criminal abuse on the net, has put many families into disarray. Compared to the nuisance caused by obscenity and defamation, the damage is tellingly stark. People have been lured to death through catfishing. Many more have lost precious possessions via the same process.

No doubt, the internet is under attack and may remain so if its abusers are not sufficiently restrained. The rate of abuse appears to increase by the day and will require a lot of effort from both users and regulators to keep it inviolate. This is particularly so because no one will be spared the corrosive effect when the abuse gets to a tipping point. It will surely visit on society enormous damage.

Ejike Anyaduba