The Federal Government of Nigeria plans to do the impossible: regulate social media. According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the National Council on Information (NCI) has recommended the “setting up of a Council to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria”. The recommendation is contained in a communique issued at the end of Extraordinary Meeting of NCI on Hate Speeches, Fake News and National Unity held on Friday in Jos, Premium Times reports.
The Council, presided over by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, noted that Social media has no address as such vetting and editing posting in social media might be difficult.
The Council recommended that Information managers at the state level should open a website to counter report of any misinformation posted by the social media as quickly as the hate speeches, misinformation and fake news are posted.
It recommended immediate killing of whatever postings on social media assumed or presumed to be hate speeches or fake news or misinformation by the information managers in various states.
The Council noted that social media might take over the 2019 elections because Nigerians had come to rely more and believe the social media over the conventional media.
It directed the Federal and State Ministries of Information to use jingles to promote peace and come up with cartoons on the TV and Newspapers telling the dangers of fake news and hate speeches.
“The collaboration must start with National Orientation Agency and the state governments,” the Council recommended.
The Council underscored the need to start talking to those responsible for law and enforcement of justice to address the issues of citizens taking laws into their hands.
The body also emphasised that “the welfare of the people is paramount, people well fed will listen to their government”.
NAN reports that the extraordinary meeting of the council was declared open by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau, represented by his Deputy Prof. Sonni Tyoden.
Mr. Lalong observed that the combination of hate speech, conducts, commentaries, writing and displays that combined with the engagement of Hate Media Platforms had in global history proven their ability to incite genocide.
He emphasised that any person or group of persons using any media outlet to bait and explore the innocence and gullibility of a few people must be condemned and sanctioned as criminal, by all people of conscience
NAN also reports that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in a keynote address, expressed displeasure over the hate spewed on radio stations across the country which according to him has become alarming.
The Minister said the careless incitement to violence and the level of insensitivity to the multi-religious, multi-ethnic nature of the country must not be allowed to continue because it is detrimental to the unity and well-being of our country.
Simply, the government has no luck, to ever succeed in regulating social media. The only good outcome from this will be providing jobs for the young people who will be needed to monitor the web. Internet, by its nature, cannot be contained and it is not possible how government plans to execute its strategy. Maybe, they will share in coming weeks.
Yet, we need to acknowledge that the minister has a point: we need to strengthen our legal system to ensure people do not abuse the social media ecosystem to destabilize Nigeria. It may need to focus on the law, providing tools and processes to make sure that people that violate the law are brought to justice.Without those elements, there is no level of monitoring that will have meaningful impact.
This is not a Nigerian problem – every government including U.S. does social media monitoring. But using the word “regulate” makes it seem like it is an institutionalized process. Nigeria already monitors social media as part of its counter-terrorism process, but regulating social media, is not necessary. We just have to use the Law to make people get back to senses on what they post and do online. Unless the plan is to create more public sector jobs, there is no other likely positive outcome from this.