It’s time to regulate social media


With its various networking platforms, the advent of social media has further revolutionized the world of information technology; change for good the whole model of communication between individuals and groups. As well as being a global stage for conversations and other forms of social interaction, social media platforms have become compelling sources of news, entertainment, knowledge, ideas and interests because they also allow users to electronically create and share content. Social media connects people who share common interests. Platforms, which also facilitate the creation and expansion of business, political, intellectual and professional networks, include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube and Snapchat.

Considering how Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, since their inception, have shaped certain national and regional events in certain parts of the world including Nigeria, the power of social media over politics, public peace, national security in many countries today cannot easily be wished away. While social media platforms were, no doubt, founded on well-meaning premises with positive impacts on national economies and modern life; some of its users in Nigeria have instead turned them into places of mischief and evil; a development against the innovative gains envisioned by its promoters.

For example, a non-existent Christopher Uche-Ayodeji (Dr Chris) recently ‘confessed’ in the screenshot of a viral Facebook post that he left many Muslims to die while working as a doctor in the north. from Nigeria. Checks with the UK (UK) hospital where he claimed to be a doctor confirmed that the alleged “Dr. Chris” was unknown to him. Users, however, continued to share the screenshot on social media along with a photo of a man unrelated to the case. On Facebook, neither the shared message nor the page belonging to “Dr. Chris” exists.

Another latest misuse of social media is that which quickly followed the recent murder of Deborah Samuel, a Christian student at Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, for alleged blasphemy. Fake news has been shared on social media that the residence of Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has been razed. The Catholic Diocese of Sokoto had to issue a statement debunking the fake news. The statement, which also deflated claims that protesters destroyed and burned down two churches in Sokoto, averted retaliatory attacks that would have followed. The war of words that has also erupted on Twitter and Facebook between some Muslim and Christian social media users over the alleged murder of Deborah illustrated how Nigerians are exploiting the platforms for hate speech.

It is worse where malicious use of social media has led to violence, as happened in Kaduna State when Chocolate City boss Audu Maikori told a false story that five students from the college of education had been killed in southern Kaduna. He later apologized for posting the fake story; claiming that his driver who passed it on to him said his brother (of the driver) was among the victims. When questioned, Maikori’s driver said he passed on the fake story to his boss to allow him to get permission to go home.

A BBC investigation also recently revealed that a network of Nigerians based outside the country and sympathizers with the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) were using social media to call for violence and incite ethnic hatred against the opponents in Biafra.

As a medium that blends various cultural thought patterns and styles of expression, social media has also had terrible cultural consequences on the psyche of many young Nigerians. Many young people have linked their involvement in violent crime and anti-social behavior, including worship, ritual killing, armed robbery, kidnapping, risky sexual behavior and substance abuse, to social media content. The National Guidance Agency (ANO), religious and traditional leaders all have a duty to change the tide of the decadent trend that is eating away at the fabrics of our value system.

Some Nigerians, out of ignorance or malice, confuse hate speech with freedom of expression, as if the former were synonymous with the latter. Although freedom of expression is a basic human right in all United Nations member countries, freedom does not extend to inflammatory language or any speech that expresses hatred or promotes violence based on race, religion or sex against a person or group. A speech or writing that incites violence is far from being a manifestation of the right to express oneself. Certainly, it is not freedom of expression when it threatens public peace and order.

Nigeria needs laws prohibiting the creation and sharing of fake news and hate speech as a way to prevent wicked politicians, religious fanatics and ethnic xenophobes from misusing social media platforms. It wouldn’t be the first country to regulate the use of social media. The majority of developed democracies, including Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have laws that example, restrict hatred. word. In the UK, section 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 states that “restrictions on freedom of expression would be permitted where they threaten national security; incites racial or religious hatred; damages the health or morals of an individual; or threatens the rights and reputation of individuals.

People need to understand that with every right comes a responsibility which, in this case, requires every citizen to understand, appreciate and respect the right of others to similar freedoms. As political campaigns wait to kick off before the 2023 general elections in a country already divided by deep ethnic, religious and political divisions, there is an urgent need for the government, through the National Communication Commission ( NCC) and other relevant agencies, is shaping legislations that will regulate the use of social media in such a way that false articles, hate speech and hate-inciting articles will not be published. However, we must state here that such a law must be sufficiently clear on what constitutes hate speech or hate-incitement to avoid being misused by politicians and authorities to stifle opposition. , media or suspected enemies.

The law, once enacted, should be widely publicized and offenders prosecuted accordingly. The government’s failure to regulate social media or enforce provisions of the law to curb the excesses of its users should be seen as a recipe for anarchy. It is time to regulate social media in Nigeria if only peace, stability and national cohesion are imperatives for the development of the country.

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