Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) director William Bird says Twitter should help law enforcement in cases of crimes.

The social media platform helped the South African Police (SAPS) track down the perpetrators of the July riots.

The Hawks say three alleged instigators who were arrested over the weekend in connection with communal violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last July will appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

As a result of the arrest over the weekend, the total number of detainees reached 25 people.

William says there are conditions under which Twitter is allowed to assist the police.

“They don’t share information about anybody unless it comes in and goes through the right channels, like platform to platform, some of them. They will all need official documents that come from the police themselves, and it can’t just be a junior police officer,” says William.

“So there’s a pretty intense legal process going on to make sure they turn it over to the legitimate authorities, which is part of a legitimate legal process, and there are legitimate reasons why these people are asking for that,” William adds.

The 22 suspects appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday charged with conspiracy and inciting public violence and inciting arson during the July 2021 riots.

The riots caused tens of billions of rand in damage and killed more than 350 people.

The violence and looting was sparked by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma for defying a court order to testify in a corruption investigation, and fueled by anger over poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of apartheid.

A report on the July riots, released in February 2022, found that the South African Police (SAPS) and intelligence agencies failed to anticipate and thwart several days of arson and looting last year.

In response to the riots, the government sent in the military to restore calm, but one estimate caused about 50 billion rand in damage as shops were looted and key infrastructure was targeted.

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