As the working day began on Wednesday 21 June, Twitter users repeatedly included the hashtag #SocialMediaBlackout with the hopes of raising more awareness for the #DataMustFall (DMF) campaign. Initially begun by former Metro FM radio personality, Thabo ‘Tbo Touch’ Molefe, the DMF campaign has gained momentum month on month. The movement has, in fact, inspired South African heavy hitter, Wendy Appelbaum, to file a lawsuit against one of the country’s largest mobile network service providers for “force feed payments”.
Using their professional and public reputations to lend weight to the cause of the common man, both Molefe and Appelbaum have struck a nerve within the mobile telecommunications industry. The #SocialMediaBlackout, however, came as a call for data users across the country to abstain from engaging with social media via mobile data for one day, to create a dent in the revenue streams of major mobile establishments. At the time of writing this article, the topic had already been noticed by more than 3 million unique Twitter users.
Although South Africans are debating whether to disengage from social media channels itself, or to focus on the network service providers, there is no denying that cyber solidarity has once again been achieved. Light-hearted opportunists at City of Johannesburg were seen to whimsically promote their ‘free wifi’ offering to city residents and inspired many voices to participate in the digital discourse. What’s also being highlighted through the movement is the ‘expiration’ of mobile airtime and data, which are being compared to grocery items and fuel – would a grocery store come to your home to retrieve items not used within 60 days, even though they’ve been paid for in full?
All that’s left is to keep your eyes glued to The Good News Company to see if South Africans achieved their goals. With recent rulings by ICASA, regarding inter-network connection fees and data prices, there is certainly hope worth having.
— 2017 AFRICA (@2017AFRICA) June 21, 2017
— Mikey Mashila (@MikeyMashila) June 20, 2017