Lai Mohammed calls for national policy on social media usage

Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has called for a national policy on use of the Social Media, to curb excesses and misuse of the medium of information dissemination.

Mohammed made the call on Thursday at the National Defence College, Abuja, while delivering a lecture on the topic, “The Impact of Fake News and Hate Speech on National Security in Nigeria’’.

The Minister who was addressing participants of Course 29 of the College underscored the need for government to also deploy technology to monitor the Social Media and stop the purveyors of fake news and hate speech in their tracks.

He noted that lack of a national policy and relevant technology have made the government to be handicapped in tackling the menace of Social Media.

“The need to act fast is made more urgent by the fact that the extremism being promoted by anti-state groups remains one of the biggest challenges to Nigeria’s national security.

“Let me quickly state that the veritable tools of choice for extremists to propagate their dangerous and subversive ideas include unrestrained propaganda, fake news and hate speech.

“These are very potent tools in the hands of extremists, whether they are secessionists, ultra-nationalists, religious extremists or even insurgents.

“Of course, Social Media is the platform of choice for these malcontents.

“It is not surprising, therefore, that the Boko Haram terrorists have resorted to the use of Social Media to propagate the ideas in their depraved minds,’’ Mohammed said.

The Minister said the country could learn from best practices around the world including China.

He said China, with about 1.4 billion people, “does not allow an unbridled use of Social Media platforms like Facebook, Google or Whatsapp’’.

The Minister said that many countries have also enacted laws or leveraged on regulations to ensure a responsible use of the Social Media.

Mohammed said the security and intelligence agencies also have a big role to play in stopping misuse of the Social Media.

He noted that due to the emerging trends, the scope of national security has gone beyond military actions.

On the danger posed by fake news in the country, the Minister said the long battle against polio, was made worse for decades by the rumours promoted in certain circles that polio vaccines were aimed at depopulating Nigerians.

He appreciated the efforts of government and other partners for the recent success on polio with the declaration of Nigeria as polio-free.

Mohammed quoted a report published by the BBC in 2018 that the farmers-herders
clashes in Nigeria were fueled by fake news in the Social Media.

He said those trying to sow the seed of discord were picking pictures and videos of violence in other climes and rebroadcasting them as if they were events taking place in the country.

Mohammed also recalled that in 2016, an entertainment entrepreneur published a story on his social media handle that five students of the College of Education in Gidan Waya, Kaduna State, were slaughtered by Fulani herdsmen.

He said the report, which naturally inflamed passions and almost caused reprisal attacks in the state, turned out to be fake.

The Minister said in the wake of the 2019 xenophobic attacks against Africans in South Africa, some videos emerged on the Social Media purported to be scenes of the violence against Nigerians in South Africa.

“The videos were discovered to be of some accidents in India and Tanzania, but of course some irate
Nigerian youths were incited to the point of setting ablaze some business premises connected to South Africa,’’ he said.

Mohammed noted that Nigerian lives are continuously being put at risk by misinformation that causes people to try unproven remedies in the name of ‘curing’ or even protecting themselves from the Coronavirus pandemic.

On the efforts of government to curb the menace, the Minister said his ministry as early as 2017 organised an extraordinary session of the National Council on Information on fake news and hate speech.

Mohammed said the session was followed with a National Campaign against Fake News and Hate Speech which had taken him to many media houses.

“We have also reached out to technology companies like Facebook and Google in order to work with them to curtail the spread of fake news and hate speech.

“This alliance came in handy in the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Facebook removed any fake story we are able to flag,’’ he said.

Mohammed said government also embarked on the reform of the broadcast industry, to stop the purveying of hate speech by the nation’s broadcast stations.

He noted that although, government has not succeeded in curbing fake news and hate speech, it has recorded progress in bringing both issues to the table of national discourse.

The Minister assured that the government will do everything possible, within the laws of the country, to ensure that fake news and hate speech do not jeopardise national security or threaten the existence of the country.

He, however, said that while government cannot do it alone, Nigerians must eschew fake news and hate speech, and also commit to a responsible use of the Social Media.

The Commandant of the College, Rear Adm. Mackson Kadri, while thanking the minister for the lecture, said fake news has become part of the daily security challenges of the country.

Kadri urged the participants to proffer solutions to the menace in their various fields of deployment. (NAN)

– Oct. 15 2020 @ 17:59 GMT |

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