The issue of fake news has been described as a time bomb that will destroy Nigeria if not urgently checked. As a result of this, the Federal government has insisted on the regulation of the social media space in the country, the Punch reports.
Appearing before the House Committee on Tuesday to defend the 2021 budget proposal by his ministry, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said that there’s every need to regulate the social media circle, citing the recent #EndSARS campaign which he insisted was first planned via social media.
However, the House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values were sharply divided on the matter, as they cautioned against clamping down on free speech and press freedom.
In his response to questions from the members of the committee, Lai Mohammed pointed out that the next war to be fought in the country and across the world might be fought on the social media, making reference to the ongoing #EndSARS protests.
The minister clarified that the government was not planning to close down social media space in the country because “the social media has come to stay.”
But, he, stressed on the need to have a policy that regulates social media and check fake news and misinformation.
He said, “The biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation. Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information’s meeting to that issue, after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“We said, then, that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news. We didn’t stop there. We went on a tour of all media houses to solicit their support in the fight against fake news. We launched the campaign to regulate social media, which was bitterly contested by the stakeholders. We kept saying that if we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria.
“The recent #EndSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilised using the social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphone and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to radio or read newspapers. You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting the social media. So, we need a social media policy in Nigeria and we need to empower the various agencies and we need technology to be able to regulate the social media.”
Members of the committee, however, cautioned the minister.
In his reaction, a member, Emmanuel Oghene, warned against any attempt to shut down the social media in the country, saying the action will be counter-productive and would make the youths to believe that there is an attempt to truncate democracy in the country.
Oghene stated that it will be wrong to always look at the negative sides of the social media at all times without mentioning the good side.
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