Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has lambasted bloggers on social media, some of whom he has accused of not only using their contents, which he claimed they are receiving payment for, to spread misinformation, but to also abuse Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other public officials.
In describing such individuals as “malicious bloggers”, Chuck urged Justices of the Peace (JPs) to avoid falling for the false information being circulated by the controversial bloggers, as he claimed that the island’s democracy is being undermined by such acts.
“They have malicious bloggers who use every possible abuse of the prime minister, the ministers, (and other) persons in the society,” Chuck stated.
“… And why do they do it? Do you know they make money to do so?” he asked those gathered at a banquet and awards ceremony hosted by the St Elizabeth chapter of the Justices of the Peace Association at Tropics View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester on Thursday.
Chuck underscored that democracy is alive and well in Jamaica, and said this created a practice where all citizens can “go out in the square and curse the prime minister” and any other Cabinet minister, “unless they start cursing bad words”.
He also pointed to the freedom of all Jamaicans to voice their views in the newspaper and on radio about anyone, which he said is a right under the constitution.
However, the justice minister said bloggers are now abusing that democratic freedom in their commentaries on various social media platforms, including YouTube, to gain followers and monetise their misinformation.
“When they (the malicious bloggers) can get a few thousands of persons to tune into them, YouTube pays them.
“So, you have a situation now where the democracy is at work, but they go on blogs and speak the most salacious, negative and abusive misinformation, (which is) undermining the integrity of our country,” Chuck contended.
The minister is not the first public official to express concerned about the use of social media by persons to spread misinformation and disinformation.
At a press conference earlier this month, Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, called for special laws relative to offences such as digital public mischief, to be crafted.
“We’re witnessing a growing trend where individuals exploit social media to create fear, spread chaos and disorder,” declared Anderson who, at the time, referenced a situation where a man sent a false bomb threat through social media app, TikTok, which created pandemonium in Ocho Rios, St Ann in early June.
“As the digital environment evolves, we’re increasingly seeing the need for some specific legislation that defines new offences within the context of social media, artificial intelligence, deep fakes and wider use of the cyber space,” the commissioner stated further.
While Chuck did not advance such a push on Thursday, the minister took issue with persons both in Jamaica and overseas who are all listen to such bloggers on platforms as they spread “nastiness” and mischief.
“They tune into them (bloggers), and they (bloggers) get paid for all the nastiness that they bring across on their blogs,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, Chuck implored JPs and citizens to fact check the information that they share with others, especially via WhatsApp.