Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has reiterated that the social media in the country must be regulated to prevent the spread of fake news.
He stated this at a press conference in Abuja, on Thursday.
The minister’s comment is coming at the heels of the heat that has been generated in the aftermath of the #ENDSARS protest.
Mr. Mohammed stated that although the government will not shut down social media, it has been important to regulate it before it put the country on fire.
He insisted that the social media has been used to spread fake news and disinformation in recent times which is why the government won’t stand by and allow the abuse to continue.
According to the information minister, even various social media platforms are increasingly joining the call for content regulation.
“Keen watchers of the developments cannot fail to notice the role played by the social media in the EndSARS protest. As a veritable tool for mass mobilization, the organizers of the protest of course leveraged heavily on social media for that purpose. But on the other hand, the same social media was used to spread fake news and disinformation that catalyzed the violence that was witnessed across the country,” he said.
“This development has reinforced the campaign against fake news and disinformation, which we launched in 2018. As a matter of fact, as far back as 2017, when we dedicated that year’s National Council on Information to the issue of fake news and disinformation, we had been expressing concerns on the dangers posed by irresponsible use of the new media platform. The concerns culminated in the launch of the national campaign which I referred to earlier.
“The social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private.
“As we have said many times, no responsible government will stand by and allow such abuse of social media to continue. The fake news/disinformation purveyors have latched on to our concerns to allege that the Federal Government is planning to shut down social media. No, we have no plans to shut down the social media. What we have always advocated, and what we will do, is to regulate the social media. Nigeria is not alone in this regard. The issue of social media regulation is an ongoing debate not just in Nigeria but around the world, including in the United States, which is the flag flyer of constitutional democracy. Even the owners of the various social media platforms, including Facebook, are increasingly joining the call for content regulation.”
He added that if social media is not checked, it could create the kind of violence that will prevent people from using its various platforms.
“What they have failed to understand is that the only reason we are even able to have this debate is because we have a country. If we allow the abuse of social media to precipitate uncontrolled internecine violence, the kind of which was narrowly averted during the EndSARS crisis, no one will remember or be able to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, for whatever purpose,” he said.
“It is incumbent upon us all, therefore, to strike a balance between free speech – which this Administration is committed to upholding – and fake news/disinformation, which it is determined to fight.”