We Need to Regulate Social Media Abuse…Lai Mohammed

We Need to Regulate Social Media Abuse…Lai Mohammed

…Govt Has No Plans to Stifle Free Speech nor Shut Down the Internet …Those who Use it Responsibly Have Nothing to Fear Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed has restated the need to mitigate and regulate social media abuse particularly against the backdrop of violence, arson and looting that dogged the aftermath of

…Govt Has No Plans to Stifle Free Speech nor Shut Down the Internet

…Those who Use it Responsibly Have Nothing to Fear

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed has restated the need to mitigate and regulate social media abuse particularly against the backdrop of violence, arson and looting that dogged the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests, called to push against Police brutality and harassment of the citizenry. He however stressed that, “checking the abuse of social media is not synonymous with stifling press freedom or free speech,” adding that, “Fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech.”

“Social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private, during the #EndSARS violence. Pictures of celebrities and even non-Nigerians who were supposedly killed at Lekki Toll Gate quickly made the rounds on social media, only for those celebrities to say they are alive, and for discerning Nigerians to disprove many of those listed as killed at Lekki Toll Gate,” he says in an address to a virtual meeting of online publishers on Tuesday.

Explaining the concern of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari on the daggers of the social media, Mohammed says, “We have no scintilla of doubt that the violence that resulted from the hijack of the EndSARS protest was catalyzed by fake news and disinformation, which spread like wildfire on social media. And this did not come to us as a surprise, considering the fact that since 2017, we have been raising the alarm about the dangers of social media abuse.”

Recalling the government’s move to tackle the menace, the Minister stated that, “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 organizations.”

“We remain concerned about the abuse of social media, and we continue to look for ways to ensure a responsible use of the platform. Once again, we solicit your support in our effort to fight this menace. As online publishers, who rely heavily on the new media, you will also be doing yourselves a great favour by helping to weed out those who are abusing it. If things get to a level where people can no longer trust anything published online, no one stands to lose more than media practitioners. That’s why we continue to seek your support on this issue,” he added.

Mohammed was particularly irked by an online publication which reported his as saying the country was at the mercy of Boko Haram.

“Talking about social media abuse, on Monday, an online publisher quoted me as saying Nigeria is at the mercy of Boko Haram. This is sheer fabrication and an abuse of platform. While in Makurdi, Benue State, on an official visit, I was asked by journalists to comment on the killing of farmers in Borno State over the weekend. I said terrorism is a global problem that requires the collaborative efforts among nations to combat.

“I said Nigeria needs the support of global partners, especially in the area of acquisition of effective platforms to deal with the terrorists. I recalled that some of the platforms ordered and paid for by Nigeria have yet to be supplied till date, thus weakening the war on terror.

“How these statements translate to Nigeria being at the mercy of Boko Haram is baffling, and could only have come from warped minds who are more interested in attracting traffic to their websites than upholding the truth. Is anyone still in doubt that something urgent needs to be done to rein in the abuse of social media? Call it regulation or whatever, we have to do something most urgently.”

The Minister further canvassed for understanding on the matter. “But, as I have always said, checking the abuse of social media is not synonymous with stifling press freedom or free speech. Fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech.

“For the umpteenth time, I want to say that this government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet as some have claimed. Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear. But those who abuse it are right to be worried.

“Still talking about fake news and disinformation, the recent EndSARS protest and the aftermath,” he says, present a rare opportunity to see how these twin evils could aggravate issues.

“For example, the knee-jerk reactions of some countries were informed by fake news and disinformation, and varying figures of those purportedly killed in the hoax massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate are being bandied around. For example, Parliamentarians in Britain put the figure of those killed at 10, CNN first reported 38 and then lowered the number to 1. And DJ Switch’s numbers cascaded from 78 dead to 15 to 7!

“In particular, it is most disheartening that Parliamentarians in a country with a history of upholding the finest ideals of democracy will act in such an uninformed manner on an issue such as EndSARS. The quality of the debate at the British Parliament on EndSARS was under par.

“Fake accusations based on fake news and disinformation were levelled against the Federal Government by poorly-informed participants at the debate. One MP even accused former Nigerian leader Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), who served this country to the best of his ability, of stealing half of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Sheer Ignorance! The flippant MP, who unfortunately chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons, did a great disservice to himself, the Committee he chairs and the entire Parliament by allowing himself to be misled by fake news exponents. Fittingly, the British Government has distanced itself from him.

“Even an international broadcaster like CNN was misled by fake news and disinformation. But CNN has itself to blame for relying on unauthenticated videos, which it took from social media. Now, CNN is seeking to save face by trying to clarify its report, which was not only inaccurate but failed the simple test of balance and fairness.

“The attempt to walk back its earlier report has justifiably attracted the anger of Nigerians. As you all know, the Federal Government has written a letter to CNN asking it to use its own internal mechanism to probe its so-called investigative report on the Lekki Toll Gate incident. We have received an acknowledgement of our letter, saying the letter has been referred to CNN’s Editorial Team. We await the outcome of their probe. But CNN has egg on its face for airing an ”exclusive investigation” that is hinged on nothing but fake news,” Mohammed posits.

The Minister decried the skewed nature of reporting which focus exclusively on the #EndSARS campaigners with scant mention of the heavy casualties recorded by the security forces.

“I want to speak on the role of the security agencies during and after the EndSARS protest. The Federal Government commends the security agencies for their professionalism and their restraint, which helped to save many lives. Even in the face of attacks and provocation, the security agencies, in particular the Police and Soldiers, acted within their rules of engagement.

“The reporting of the EndSARS protest has been skewed against the security agencies. While most reports have become fixated on the so-called massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate, only a few have highlighted the attacks and killing of security agents, as well as the destruction of public and private property. I urge you to help in correcting this unfair reporting.

“For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down. In addition, the violence left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalized, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted.

“The killing of the policemen was particularly gruesome and savage. Yet, human rights organizations and the media have not given this the attention it deserves. Rather, they have remained fixated on the so-called massacre. It seems the men and women in uniform are not entitled to the protection of their own human rights. This is unfortunate and must be corrected,” he says.


Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Latest Posts

Top Authors

Most Commented

Featured Videos