The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the Federal Government has no plans of shutting down social media but must regulate it 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 hijacked #EndSARS protests in Lagos.
What you should know
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, Lai 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.