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Somali influencers arrested for spreading clan-based insults on social media

Tuesday May 21, 2024

Mogadishu (HOL) – Somali authorities have arrested 21 social media influencers accused of spreading clan-based insults and "bad behaviour" online. The individuals, both male and femalewere detained by the Banadir Regional Police and had their mugshots published on the Somali Police's Facebook page.

The police claim these influencers were causing "disorder and discord" in the community. Most of those arrested remain in custody, awaiting court proceedings, while authorities plan to apprehend others on similar charges of "social discrimination."

A close friend of a detainee, also a 
popular TikTok influencer, told the BBC Somali Service that the arrests were linked to clan-based insults exchanged on social media, which drew the attention of the Banadir regional government.

"The Somali police assure you that they are targeting other social media users who mobilize the community and incite bad behaviour," said the spokesperson for the Banadir region police force.

Financial Motivation Behind Clan-Based Content

Abdullahi Yare, a young man in Italy and a well-known TikTok influencer, explained that using clan affiliations on social media is financially motivated. He noted that engaging with TikTok in a purely Somali context fails to generate excitement or financial gain.

"Young people make clan-based content to make money from their TikTok. Simply saying 'I'm Somali' won't yield any results," he said.

According to Abdullahi, the money sent to contestants in TikTok games often comes from people supporting rivals, showing anger, and insulting other clans. "They say you must be a rival and insult the other tribe. Being quiet and disciplined won't get you anything," he explained.

Controversy Over Clan Insults

However, many Somalis believe that spreading clan and family insults for monetary gain is unjustifiable. Abdulkadir Nur Hussein, known as Maah, a Somali writer who also uses social media, highlighted the harmful impact of such behaviour.

"Wanting to make money is not an excuse for spreading harmful rhetoric. These young people need to stop," Maah told the BBC.

The use of offensive language, including insults and threats, is part of what the Somali government has condemned as immoral. Clannism remains a highly sensitive topic in Somali society, with many conflicts rooted in tribal divisions.

Offline Behavior Contrasts with Online Actions

Despite their online behaviour, Abdullahi Yare insists that he and his friends do not genuinely believe in societal divisions. "We talk to each other, gather in cafes, travel abroad together, and even share tea, coffee, and money," he said.

Some influencers seem to exploit every opportunity to make money by using hateful language, without considering the negative impact on the millions connected to social media.

In the past, the Somali government attempted to ban TikTok and other platforms, citing the spread of indecent videos, but the ban was not enforced. The Somali police have announced plans to bring those arrested to court on charges of spreading "bad behaviour and violence."


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