Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has reiterated that the federal government will only regulate social media and not shut it down.
The Minister said this during a solidarity visit to Vintage Press Limited, the publishers of The Nation newspapers and Sporting Life, following the October 21, 2020 attack on the organization’s corporate headquarters by hoodlums who hijacked the #ENDSARS protests.
In his words ;
“I know some observers may wonder how the minister can describe the attack on The Nation as attack on free press and on democracy, whereas a few days ago, he canvassed for regulation of social media.
“I say to such observers that there is no contradiction in what I said before and what I am saying now. This government has respect for the free press. What we are against is irresponsible use of social media and fake news.
“We did not start this campaign against fake news yesterday. In 2017, we devoted an entire National Council on Information meeting to address the issues of fake news and hate speech.
“I remember I said that day that there is a new epidemic coming to consume the world. That epidemic is fake news. That epidemic will pose great danger to global peace and security.
“In 2018, we followed it up by launching a national campaign against fake news and hate speech. These were because we knew the danger there. We did not, at any time, say we would kill the internet.
“We did not say social media must be closed down, never! Social media is here to stay and it would be antithesis to democracy if one makes an attempt to shut down the social media.
“However, we must regulate social media in a manner that it does not become a purveyor of fake news and hate speech.
“Today, the pattern of choice for purveyors of fake news and hate speech is social media. It travels so fast; it disseminates so fast.
“This is why it is important for any country to look at that platform and ensure it is regulated in a manner that does not bring harm not just to the users but to everybody. No country will fold its hands and watch purveyors of fake news and hate speech destabilise it.
“And it is as if the world is not learning. In 1994, 800,000 lives were lost in Rwanda as a result of hate speech. One radio station in particular was largely responsible for this. The same thing happened in Cambodia, etc.
“So, when we talk about regulating social media, we are simply saying regulate it so as to ensure responsible use of the social media.
“We do not want to be misunderstood. We are also asking for freedom of the press because no democracy can survive without freedom of the press.
“We have tried to reach out to all the major stakeholders, including Google, Facebook, NUJ, Guild of Editors, bloggers, social media influencers, etc; let’s sit down together and fashion out a policy that will make our social media platforms responsible.
“Even the owners of these platforms are talking about regulation now.