The Federal Government has insisted that it will regulate the use of social media in the country.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said this on Friday, during a meeting with title editors in Lagos.
According to the minister, the issue of how fake news and disinformation aggravated the recent #EndSARS crisis has dominated “our previous meetings with various stakeholders.”
He stated that the government have no doubt that fake news and disinformation fuelled the crisis, adding that the government is not surprised.
“This is because since 2017, we have been raising the alarm about the dangers of social media abuse. In 2017, we dedicated that year’s National Council on Information to the issue of fake news, hate speech and disinformation. The following year, in 2018, we launched the national campaign against fake news and disinformation, partnering with a number of print and electronic media organisations.
“Now, our fears about the abuse of social media, and specifically the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, have come to pass,” the minister said.
Mohammed further stated that during the protest and the subsequent violence, fake news and disinformation were the order of the day.
He said: “Social media was used for mobilisation, and it was also used to guide arsonists and looters to properties, both public and private, which were targeted for attack. Celebrities who were listed as killed at Lekki quickly dispelled the report of their deaths. Discerning Nigerians exposed the fact that pictures of some non-Nigerians were used to justify the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate.”
He noted that the development has strengthened the federal government’s resolve to work with stakeholders to stop the abuse of social media, saying: “It has also rekindled the debate on the need to regulate social media content, a debate that is not limited to Nigeria.”
” Former US President, Barack Obama has said the internet and social media have helped to create the ‘single biggest threat’ to democracy. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation of social media content. Other giant tech companies seem to agree. On our part, we will not sit down and allow a reckless use of social media to aggravate our fault lines and throw the country into turmoil,” he stated.
The minister, however,assured that in curbing the excesses of social media, the federal government will neither shut down the internet nor stifle press freedom or free speech, as some have insinuated.
“We also acknowledge that social media is here to stay,” he added.
Mohammed, who reeled out the government’s response to the five demands of the #EndSARS protesters, urged media houses to review their coverage of the whole crisis, and rectify all the anomaly.
” Gentlemen, there is another issue that I will like to discuss with you today. It concerns how your newspapers reported the last #EndSARS crisis, especially the attack on security agents. In the first instance, it seems you unfortunately fell for the hoax that there was a massacre at Lekki Toll Gate.
“Almost all papers ran screaming headlines of massacre or killings at the toll gate the day after the October 20th incident there, when soldiers fired blank ammunition into the air to disperse protesters. Did you also fall for social media manipulation of the events that transpired that evening?
“No group was better placed than you to lead the narrative of what happened that night, but it seems you ceded that authority to social media, which has no time for the rigours of gate-keeping or fact checking. I hope in reviewing your coverage of the whole crisis, you will rectify that anomaly,” Mohammed concluded.