Other Options Available For Social Media Regulation, Says FG

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The Federal Government says, apart from enacting new laws, there are many options open to it in regulating social media.

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed stated this on Thursday in Abuja at a meeting with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP).

He said the government could leverage technology, working with the big techies like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram to check the spread of fake news and hate speech.

The minister, therefore, said,” it is premature for anyone to say that there are enough laws already to deal with social media deviants”.

He said the process for the social media regulation would not be a unilateral process because government would carry relevant stakeholders along.

“Let me announce here that we have just kick-started the process.

“We have dispatched letters inviting representatives of the media, civil society, technology and security experts, online publishers, bloggers, relevant agencies of government, etc, for this purpose.

“It will involve all stakeholders coming together to chart the path forward. In essence, the committee we plan to set up will determine the best option for us to use,” he said.

Mohammed said from Oct. 29, when he announced government plan to sanitise the social media, there had been intense debate on the issue.

“This is a welcome development because the announcement has pushed the issue of the social media to the front burner and we can only benefit from such debate.

“We have been monitoring the debate. Some analysts and commentators have supported our plan, while others have opposed it.

“An interesting part of the debate has been that even those who opposed the regulation have acknowledged the dangers inherent in the irresponsible use of social media, especially by anarchists and non-patriots.

“We thank everyone who has spoken out, and we hope the debate will continue,” he said.

The minister said that contrary to opinions from certain quarters, the planned regulation was not aimed at stifling free speech and muzzling the media.

“The fear of stifling free speech or muzzling the media is totally unfounded. We have no such plans.

“As we speak, people are on social media criticizing the Administration. We have no problem with that because it is part of democracy.

“This is a democracy and there should be a plurality of opinions.

“But our concern has to do with the abuse of the social media by those who are bent on spreading fake news and hate speech, and the dangers inherent in that for our national peace and unity.

“We have no hidden agenda,” he said.

Mohammed said that while government welcome a robust debate on the issue, the criticisms in certain quarters would not stop it from going ahead with sanitising the social media space.

He said Nigeria was not alone, countries including Germany, UK, Singapore, China, South Korea, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia were doing something about the social media.

The minister solicited the support of GOCOP in the national campaign against fake news and hate speech.


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