The Federal Government has disclosed that plans are being concluded to revisit the Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations Bill 2019 (SB 132)’ known better as the Social Media Bill, saying regulating the social media was non-negotiable in line with the government’s commitment to checkmate fake news and misinformation.
It explained that without regulating social media, fake news and misinformation would continue to dominate the Nigerian space and that such could amplify mistrust amongst ethnics and further fan the ember of discord as witnessed during the violence and destruction that followed the protests against police brutality in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that the violent dimension of EndSARS protest was not unconnected to misinformation and fake news being shared across social media in the country.
Speaking when he appeared before House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Values to defend 2021 budget proposed by his ministry on Tuesday, Mohammed maintained that the move was not to gag social media space or free speech but to regulate the space for better engagements.
The minister noted that though social media has come to stay, there was need for the country to checkmate its usage, stressing that right policy was needed to checkmate misinformation and fake news.
“The biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation. Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information’s meeting 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.
“The recent EndSARS war was fought on social media. They mobilised using the social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphone and data and these young men don’t even watch television or listen to radio or read newspapers. You will be shocked that when you start arguing with your children, they will be quoting 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 social media,” he said.