The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has said that the federal government will continue with its plan to regulate social media.
Speaking in an interview with TheCable recently, Mohammed said the idea of regulating social media is not to stifle freedom of expression but to curb fake news and disinformation.
The minister noted that fake news and disinformation poses threat to the security of the nation, adding that the government will do everything humanly possible to avert chaos and violence in the country.
He said: ” There is no going back on the government’s decision to regulate social media. And you see, we’ve always said at every opportunity that the idea of regulating social media is not to stifle freedom of expression. Rather, we’re concerned about the growing phenomenon of fake news and disinformation which actually poses threat to the security of every nation.
“You see, Nigerians have forgotten that as far back as 2017 when we saw the dangers posed by fake news and disinformation, we dedicated an entire national council on social media to discuss this issue, and we said that the next upheaval in the world would be caused by social media.
“Now, fake news and disinformation are not new, but because of technology and the speed today with which news is disseminated through these platforms, it has become even much more worrisome. Now, with traditional media, there were a lot of safeguards; a lot of gatekeeping.
“Anybody today with a smartphone can go into his room, concoct stories, and nobody bothers to find out whether it is true or not. And we’ve seen unfortunately that fake news and disinformation through social media has led to serious political upheavals everywhere in the world. Now, in 2018, we began this advocacy to seek the support of all stakeholders on how we can tame the monster of fake news and disinformation.
“We sought and got Facebook, Twitter and Google at this office, and they agreed with us. Now, it has come to a stage that we have left the level of advocacy. We must take concrete decisions on how we can regulate social media. I’ll state two examples; one at home, and one outside.
“The #EndSARS protest was started as a peaceful protest, and had the support of virtually everybody; The youth said look, “the excesses of the police are enough”. So, they came out and made five demands on the government. The government met all the five demands. But, of course, they allowed this thing to be hijacked by hoodlums but that’s not the point I want to make now.
“The point I want to make is that, how did fake news, social media, contribute to the deaths we had? To the best of my knowledge, there were no serious casualties, until when the social media started this disinformation and fake news that 78 people had been killed at the tollgate. That was what started all the violence, the murder, the arson, which led to 37 policemen, six soldiers being killed in cold blood; led to over 269 private and public buildings being destroyed. Left N1 trillion destruction in Lagos state — 57 lives all over Nigeria.
“As we speak today, there’s no evidence whatsoever. The government has set up a panel of enquiry; we’re yet to hear anybody say anyone is missing — almost three months later. But look at what it caused in the country. Now, they were sending out fake news on all platforms, some of these social platforms were even encouraging them; Twitter and co.
“It’s the same disinformation when the former president of the US refused to accept he lost the election and was tweeting, “everybody look, they stole my election, we must stop the steal”, and people went to occupy the Capitol. But the only difference is that when the Capitol was occupied, the same media, the same platforms that encouraged the #EndSARS protesters here, were the first to remove the rug under their own president.
“The same media, especially CNN that described the #EndSARS hooligans as peaceful protesters, now labelled the others as domestic terrorists and insurrectionists.”