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Nelson Mandela University hosted the official national launch of the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) social media charter last week.

The social media charter is a product of the SAHRC, aimed at educating and guiding users of social media, companies and organizations under the theme: “A Call to Action: Defending Human Rights in the Era of Social Media”.

The Social Media Charter addresses instances of online expression that, while not necessarily meeting the legal threshold for hate speech, nonetheless detract from social cohesion and violate the right to dignity, two important and interlinked principles of the Bill of Rights.

In his welcome address at the launch event, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Transformation, Professor Andre Keet, said the launch could not have come at a more opportune time.

“Given what one has been seeing and reading on our various social media platforms  over the past few years, I think I echo the sentiments of most gathered here, when I say, this could not have happened at a more apposite time,” he said.

“While the digital space can be liberatory for learning and living, it can also be a precariously dehumanising site. This is especially true if disinformation, bias and harm are allowed to spread in unencumbered ways.

“We are thus of the view that the charter will serve as a useful resource for parents, children, students, academics, teachers, and so on. We believe too that universities, employers, and corporates will find the Charter a useful tool in developing their own social-media policies.”

The Social Media Charter aligns with the Commission’s core purpose of ensuring that all citizens enjoy their human rights, including freedom of expression, while preserving social harmony and underscoring the right to dignity for all in South Africa.

It is produced and being launched, in collaboration with the University’s Faculty of Humanities, as a component of the SAHRC’s Social Harmony National Effort (SHiNE), which is an initiative of the SAHRC aimed at fostering a societal shift towards socially harmonious societies across the country through personal initiative, based on action, effort, and positive dialogue. As such it will serve as a useful resource for parents, children, and teachers.

“Our institutional strategy resonates very clearly and strongly with the Commission’s mandate to promote and protect human rights. Our Faculty of Humanities, which has the strategic goal of revitalisation its knowledge fields through transformative and restorative practices, and our university as a whole, aims to strengthen our relationship with the Commission going forward, building on our MOU which was signed towards the end of last year and which has brought us together today,” said Prof Keet.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor Pamela Maseko, said the Faculty strives to partner with institutions vested in all that relates to humanity and human rights.

“As the Humanities, we identify strategic partners and one of those is the SAHRC. There are two that this relationship is important. One, is that we are a faculty of humanities and the issues of what it means to be human is central to the Faculty,” said said.

Universities, employers and corporates will find the Charter a useful resource in developing their own social-media policies.

The launch included a panel discussion of prominent role-players within the social media space, including Ms Abongile Mashele of Google Africa and Mr Fortune Mgwili -Sibanda of TikTok South Africa.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777