The Federal Government has decried the proliferation of fake news particularly on social media while calling for an immediate framework to regulate the social media space.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made the call on Tuesday while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values.
He said that Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gun powder regarding the issue of fake news while explaining that the government was not seeking to shut down the social media space in the country because “the social media has come to stay”, but to have a social media policy that regulates the social media and check fake news and misinformation.
He said “the biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation. Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information meeting in His to that issue after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“We said then that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news. We didn’t stop there. We went on a tour of all media houses to solicit their support in the fight against fake news. We launched the campaign to regulate social media which was bitterly contested by the stakeholders.
“We kept saying that if we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria. In 2017, there was a fake video of the herdsmen and farmers’ crisis. It was a video of what happened in Tanzania and was played in Nigeria as if it was true. In 2017, a very popular entertainer in Nigeria raised a false alarm that students of the College of Education, Gidan Ways, Kaduna state had been murdered.
“There was an almost reprisal only for him to find out that it was not true. In the same 2017, we found out that some of the videos being posted are things that happened in other parts of the world. When there was a problem between South African and Nigeria, they were posting videos of what happened in India and Tanzania to suggest that Nigerians were being roasted alive. That was what led to the reprisals in the malls.
“We are sitting on a time bomb on this issue of fake news. Unfortunately, we have no national policy on social media and we need one. When we went to China, we could not get google, Facebook, and Instagram. You could not even use your email in China because they made sure it is censored and well regulated.
“We need technology and resources to dominate our social media. We need a social media policy to determine what can be seen and what cannot be seen.
“The recent #ENDSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilised using social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphones and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to the radio or read newspapers.
“You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting the social media. So, we need a social media policy in Nigeria and we need to empower the various agencies and we need technology to be able to regulate the social media”.
On his part, the chairman of the committee, Hon. Odebunmi Olusegun said the Nigerian government should go in search of the technology needed to regulate the social media in the country and be able to work with what is already available in cyberspace.
He said “I don’t want the media to misquote us. Social media has come to stay. What the government should do is to look for technology that will work together with what is in the space. We are not asking the government to stop social media. The most important thing is that government should go and look for the technology to regulate so that you can equally be working within the space”
Odebunmi commended the Ministry for proactively disseminating information to Nigerians in the fight to combat against COVID-19, adding the ministry and the Departments and Agencies under its supervision helped the nation to flatten the curve of the pandemic.