FG will only regulate social networks, but not shut them down, says Lai Mohammed.
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, said social media will not be shut down, but will be regulated in a way to suppress hate speech and fake news in the country.
Speech during a visit to Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation and Sporting Life, following a thug attack on the organization’s headquarters on October 21, 2020 following the shooting of EndSARS protesters on October 20.
He said the attack was deliberate and intended to silence The Nation’s voice, not just the attack on Vintage Press Limited, but also on the free press.
Lai Mohammed said; “I know some observers may wonder how the minister could have described the attack on The Nation as an attack on press freedom and democracy when he called for social media regulation a few days ago.
“I tell these observers that there is no contradiction between what I said before and what I am saying now. This government respects a free press. We are against irresponsible use of social networks and fake news.
“We didn’t start a campaign against fake news yesterday. In 2017, we dedicated an entire meeting of the National Information Council to the problem of fake news and hate speech.
“I remember saying that day that a new epidemic was approaching the world. This epidemic is fake news. This epidemic will pose a serious threat to global peace and security.
“In 2018, we launched a nationwide campaign against fake news and hate speech. This is because we knew about the danger. We never said we were going to kill the Internet.
“We never said that social networks should be closed! Social media isn’t going anywhere, and if there were an attempt to shut down social media, it would be the opposite of democracy.
“However, we need to regulate social media so that it does not become a source of fake news and hate speech.
“Today, social media is used as a model for providers of fake news and hate speech. Travel so fast; it spreads so fast.
“This is why it is important for any country to look at this platform and make sure that it is regulated in a way that does not harm not only users, but everyone. No country will fold its hands and watch as fake news providers and hate speech destabilize it.
“And it’s as if the world is not learning. In 1994, 800,000 people died in Rwanda because of hate speech. In particular, one radio station was largely responsible for this. The same thing happened in Cambodia, etc.
“So when we talk about social media regulation, we’re just talking about regulating it to ensure that social media is used responsibly.
“We don’t want to be misunderstood. We also demand freedom of the press, because no democracy can exist without freedom of the press.
“We’ve tried to reach out to all major stakeholders including Google, Facebook, NUJ, the Editors Guild, bloggers, social media influencers, and more. Let’s sit down together and define policies that will hold our social media platforms accountable.
“The owners of these platforms are also talking about regulation now.”
Lai Mohammad added; “The executive branch of the government does not limit its interest in regulating social networks to legislation alone. Our goal is to convince all stakeholders, including legislators, to see how we can regulate the use of social media for the benefit of all.
“Based on the interactions I had with the legislative branch of government in protecting the budget, I think the problem we still face with legislators is that any attempt to regulate social media is tantamount to trying to shut down social media. … It is not true. Here’s what I tried to explain to legislators.
“Actually, you can’t turn off social media. Even the strictest governments today simply regulate it. So, we need to make it safe for everyone.
“Fake news has done a lot of damage to social harmony. I think there really is no point in disagreeing between me and the legislators on this matter. “
On why young people or anti-EndSARS protesters seem to doubt the federal government’s promise to respond positively to their demands, Mohammed said:
“It was sad and annoying because the government had good intentions. The federal government responded quickly and positively to young people’s inquiries and responded immediately. When the bandits took over the protests, some states began to implement the resolutions. “