Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has claimed that the hijack of the #EndSARS protests was catalysed by fake news and disinformation, which spread like wildfire on social media.
The Minister disclosed this during a stakeholders meeting with members of the broadcasting organizations of Nigeria (BON) on Friday in Abuja.
He said, “The violence that resulted from the hijack of the #EndSARS protest was catalysed by fake news and disinformation, which spread like wildfire on social media. And this did not come to us as a surprise. As far back as 2017, we had been raising the alarm on the risks posed by fake news and disinformation.
“That year, we devoted the 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.
“Ladies and gentlemen, social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private, during the #EndSARS violence. Then, pictures of persons, including some celebrities and even non-Nigerians, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated widely, only for those persons to refute such claims.
“This brings me to the issue of social media regulation. You must have heard about the hoopla this issue has generated in the media. Well, I want to confirm that we will definitely act to ensure a responsible use of social media. You may call that regulation.
He added that the FG had no plans to stifle press freedom in Nigeria and had no intention of shutting down the internet.
“This government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet. Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear.
“But we cannot give the same assurance for those who weaponize social media. By the way, the issue of regulating social media content is generating debate around the world, so Nigeria is not an exception,” he said.