Barack Obama realised the power of social media in his innovative 2008 election campaign as did David Cameron in the UK... Political organisations are well aware that they need to use social media platforms to drive their agendas. In South Africa where university campuses have been the site of various civic and social campaigns such as #feesmustfall and #Rhodesmustfall movements, social media savvy students have used the power of platforms like Facebook and Twitter to mobilise their followers.
If the latest High Court judgment out of the Western Cape is anything to go by it seems that political organisations have fairly wide boundaries about what they can say on those platforms. Recently Afriforum tried to get a court order against a supporter of the Open Stellenbosch movement who had, in a Facebook post, accused Afriforum supporters of threatening to rape a female activist during a protest at the Stellenbosch campus. Afriforum requested that the court order the immediate removal of the various social media posts as well as an order that no future posts of the same nature were to be posted by the Open Stellenbosch supporter about Afriforum.
The Judge said that Afriforum had “deliberately entered a public and very politicised domain” when they attended the Stellenbosch campus during that particular student protest. In his view the Constitution protects freedom of the press and other media which includes social media. In his view it was obvious that a political protest of that kind would be “... emotional and bitter and would employ violent language...”
We are in the run-up to local government elections and will increasingly be exposed to the ideas and views of the various political parties on all platforms. Often you would be well advised to take what is said with a large grain of salt. Even a judge has seemed to endorse the idea that politicians are prone to exaggeration.