The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has announced that the Ministry will in February 2020 convene a stakeholders’ meeting as part of its efforts to design a framework to sanitise the social media.
The Minister made the disclosure in Abuja on February 3, 2020, when he received the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. JyrkiPulkkinen, and the Ambassador of Innovation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Mr. JarmoSareva in his office. The ambassadors were on an advocacy visit to promote the ideals of the Freedom Online Coalition.
According to him, government’s response to the irresponsible use of the social media to promote fake news and hate speech by some unscrupulous individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to sanitise the social media, without stifling press freedom or infringing on the rights of individuals.
He said: “Our attempt to sanitise the social media is not at all an attempt to stifle the media and I want to make this very clear…. As we speak today, we will be meeting later in the month with leaders of the media, civil society, security and other stakeholders on how to sanitize our social media and make it safe for all.”
“We, especially in this Ministry, have watched with some trepidation the social media front and we have seen how some people try to abuse this platform to cause disaffection, especially by pushing fake news and hate speech.”
Saying that the government remains overwhelmingly committed to the protection of human rights, both offline and online, he warned that it will not shy away from ensuring that Nigeria has a responsibly free media.
Alhaji Mohammed pointed out that in spite of the plurality of values, tribes, cultures and religions, the government has striven to strike a balance between press/individual freedom and national security, adding: “I make bold to say that this administration in particular has no intention and does not tamper with the freedom of speech or freedom of individuals,”
Acknowledging that the Minister has a broad understanding of the issues surrounding the misuse of the social media, particularly in relation to the credibility of information on the platform, Dr. Pulkkinen, in his response, urged Nigeria to partner with global bodies like the Freedom Online Coalition in order to address some of the challenges posed by the social media.
On his part, Mr. Sarevo, said the Freedom Online Coalition is a group of 31 like-minded countries formed to promote human rights online and also ensure cybersecurity, privacy and protection of data against illegal usage and monetization and trust, with a view to protecting all those uploading data on the internet.
Alhaji Mohammed has consistently hammered on government’s resolve to regulate social media use by citizens, to this end, he announced on October 29, 2019, Federal Government’s plans to “sanitise the social media space to curtail fake news and hate speech.”
He had earlier on October 20, 2019 disclosed that the government had set up a committee to implement the recommendations approved by President Buhari on tackling hate speech and fake news in the nation’s broadcast industry, saying hate speech and fake news are the ‘Siamese twins of evil’, and no responsible government will sit by and allow such to rule the airwaves.