The federal government of Nigeria has insisted that it is proceeding with plans to regulate the social media in the country so as to curb the spread of fake news.
This was disclosed on Thursday by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed during a televised live press briefing from Abuja where he spoke about the CNN report of the Lekki tollgate incident during the #EndSARS protest in October.
Naija News earlier reported that Mohammed labelled the CNN report as ‘irresponsible journalism’ and called for a sanction on the international media outfit.
The Minister who insisted that no massacre occurred during the clash between security operatives and the protesters at the Lekki tollgate said what is being portrayed so far was a “social media massacre” or a “hoax massacre.”
He added that the public has been misled by unverified and doctored videos on the social media, hence strengthening the government’s resolve to regulate the social media space in Nigeria.
Speaking on the federal government’s position, the Minister disclosed that “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. Pictures of persons, including some celebrities, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated widely, only for those persons to refute such claims or for the discerning to disprove such posts. 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.
“Some respected opinion leaders have been playing to the gallery on the issue of social media regulation by making inciting and incendiary statements, while some other individuals and groups have been threatening fire and brimstone over the issue of social media regulation.
“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.
” 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.”