…Timing of Social Media Regulation is Suspicious…NBA President On the day the global community marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, with media advocacy groups saying that press freedom and freedom of expression are under threat in Nigeria, Governors of the northern states, at a parley in Kaduna, called for censorship
…Timing of Social Media Regulation is Suspicious…NBA President
On the day the global community marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, with media advocacy groups saying that press freedom and freedom of expression are under threat in Nigeria, Governors of the northern states, at a parley in Kaduna, called for censorship of the social media to “avoid the spread of fake news”.
While slamming the effect of uncontrolled social media as devastating, the Governors also condemned the “subversive” actions of some #EndSARS protesters, saying some people took advantage of peaceful protest to push their “separatist agenda”.
In a statement after the meeting held on Monday, “In furtherance to its resolution to further engage with the critical stakeholders of the North,” the Governors said, “The meeting took note of the devastating effect of the uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news. Therefore, calls for major control mechanism and censorship of the social media practice in Nigeria.”
“The meeting rejects and condemns the subversive actions of the Endsars protest. The superlative agitations and other change regime actions outside the ballot Box soon take advantage of the peaceful protests to push for their seperative agenda. The meeting endorse the indivisibility, indissolubility and oneness of the Nation.
The statement says the Governors “appreciate the roles of Traditional rulers in containing the menace of EndSARS protests in the north” and “Collectively agreed that traditional rulers be given formal roles in the governance architecture of the Country.”
The Governors also asked security agencies to keep “strict watch” on the federal capital territory (FCT) to guide against “unwarranted and destructives protests” and to safeguard critical assets of the nation.
The meeting was attended by traditional rulers, Ministers and leaders of the National Assembly.
Although the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, says the Federal Government has no plans of shutting down the social media, he insists it must be regulated to prevent the spread of hate speech.
The Minister disclosed this on Saturday while visiting the offices of The Nation and TVC, which were burnt by hoodlums during the curfew necessitated by the unrest that followed the #EndSARS protests in Lagos.
The Minister came under heavy criticism last week for calling for the regulation of social media after he blamed social media for aggravating stories related to the #EndSARS protests during a defense of the 2021 budget proposal of the Information Ministry in Abuja.
“If you go to China, you cannot get Google, Facebook, or Instagram but you can only use your email because they have made sure that it is regulated,” he said.
“We also need technology and resources to dominate our social media space.
”They (#EndSARS protesters) mobilized using social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphones and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to the radio or read newspapers.
“We are sitting on a time bomb regarding this issue of fake news. Unfortunately, we have no national policy on social media and we need one. When we went to China, we could not get Google, Facebook, and Instagram. You could not even use your email in China because they made sure it is censored and well regulated,” the Minister added.
During his press briefing on Saturday, Mr Mohammed stated that the FG has no intention of shutting down social media as it would be undemocratic. However, the Government will not let purveyors of hate speech destabilize the nation.
“We did not at any time say that we will shut down the social media,” he said.
“Social media has come to stay and it will be an antithesis to democracy to shut it down because it is the fastest way of disseminating information.
“However, we must regulate social media in a manner that it does not become a purveyor of fake news and hate speech.
‘We will not fold our arms to allow purveyors of fake news and hate speech to use the social media to destabilize the country,” he added.
He also stated that the FG predicted the negative effects of social media on Nigeria back in 2017, which was a catalyst to the national campaign on fake news in 2018.
“We saw as far back as 2017 that the next epidemic that will hit Nigeria and the entire world is fake news and misinformation,” he said.
“Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information meeting in Jos to the issue.
“After this, we launched a national campaign on fake news on July 11, 2018, where we stressed that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired but with the use of fake news.
“We did not stop there. We went on a tour of all media houses seeking their support against fake news,” he said.
He added that news reports of attacks on farmers by herdsmen in 2017 were fuelled mostly by fake videos circulating on social media.
Also speaking on the issue, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare gave reasons why the federal government did not shut down the social media during the #EndSARS protest.
Dare who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, said the government had the option of shutting down the social media space in Nigeria during the #EndSARS protests but chose not.
Stressing that other countries had taken certain measures to exercise some levels of restraint over the cyberspace but that Nigeria was yet to do so, Dare said the government observed restraint to allow freedom of expression.
“The issue of fake news is bothersome for the government and the protests brought home the dangers of fake news. The talk around regulation, of course, we have a National Assembly, it will have to go through the normal process.
“We have a constitution, we have to make sure it does not violate certain provisions of the constitution that has to do with freedom of expression.
“Where you have fake news destroying lives, the government has a responsibility to make sure that there is a level of control. It is not censorship but some level of control,” the minister said.
Mr Dare said the internet and social media have tremendous benefits but that as a country, we must start to think of how to curtail fake news.
“There must be some level of responsibility and some level of punishment to those that will create chaos out of mischief in our country,” he said.
He noted the fact that the Nigerian youths used social media to drive the recent # EndSARS protests against Police brutality saying while that was commendable, the cyberspace must be regulated.
The Minister added, “The fact that our youths used it to mobilise is commendable. But the talk about the regulation of the social media has been around for a while.
“We’ve seen other countries taking practical steps in that direction, this country has not done that. Even during the # EndSARS protests, the country had an option (but) the country never went for that final option.
“There was no time the cyberspace was shut down, people were still able to connect themselves through the various social media platforms. And that shows a government that is committed to the rights of freedom and association of every citizen of this country”.
But the President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olumide Akpata, said the Federal Government’s plan to introduce regulation of social media after the #EndSARS protests are suspicious, as the social media space is already regulated.
Mr. Akpata disclosed this in an interview with Channels TV on Sunday.
The NBA president said that social media is already regulated, as he struggles to see if Nigeria wants to regulate or shut down social media.
“I struggle with the terms that we bandy around. As I said, I think the social media space is regulated already.
“Are we saying regulate or shutdown? What are we saying because we hear them using regulate? We hear the Minister of Information use the word ‘sanitize.’ I just say to myself, ‘what are we trying to do?’ The timing is suspicious.
“And if we need to tweak the laws here and there, as we amend our laws every day to meet with issues that may come up, which were not previously contemplated, we are all well and good,” Akpata said.
He also added that going overboard would not be advisable, as the government’s plans may not work.
“But it is not throwing out the baby and the bathwater approach like I suspect is in contemplation by those who are handling the levers of power today. That is not going to work,” he said.