Nigerians on Twitter would have noticed that the accounts on many Nigerian Twitter “influencers” were recently suspended. The stories surrounding this suspension state that the influencers were paid to obstruct justice by starting an online campaign. These influencers were said to have trended a hashtag as well as topics that will incite public outcry, protests, and demand for the release of Alex Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat, who was arrested and detained in Cape Verde in June 2020 for money laundering allegations.
Of course, some of these influencers have denied these allegations, some claiming they trended the topic without being paid to do so. Whether these influencers were paid or not, fact remains that this controversial act has revealed how dangerous social media influencers can be if they are not regulated.
You must have noticed that some social media users have a lot of followers even though they do not advertise any products. They are called “influencers” for reasons that are never related to “influencing” people, at least positively. You must have noticed that some of these so-called influencers put up posts that have no positive impacts on their followers’ lives but still, the number of their followers continue to increase.
The time you might see them very active is when there is an “outcry” against an organisation, an individual, or the government. This will make you think that these people truly care about others but if you approach them privately to help you raise a voice for something they cannot gain from, they will ignore you and/or block you. This is to tell you that social media “influencer” is a business outlet and not a humanitarian one.
No one is stopping influencers from making money out of their “business” but lying about it and making money out of people’s expense make their job unacceptable. These people have a large number of followers, who could easily be misled because of the trust they have on the influencers. Because these people believe these influencers look out for them, they are manipulated into performing whatever actions they were directed to do. This was one of the issues with the Alex Saab case, where influencers told their followers to retweet their Alex Saab-related posts to stop oppression. The unsuspecting followers did as they were commanded without questioning the rationale behind the action.
Furthermore, followers see influencers as the voice of reason. They believe the influencers are “omniscient” because they have a large number of followers. So influencers should never be doubted or questioned, especially by people with small numbers of followers. Anyone that challenges the positions or assertions of these influencers is met by uproar, rage, and aggressive reactions/attacks from the influencers’ followers. Today, influencers are like drug lords and their followers are their street fighters, their minions.
The danger of social media influencers can be seen in their abilities to brainwash their followers and release them against their (the influencers’) enemies. They have gradually become so strong that they can raise people against the government, organisations, or private individuals. They have become online terrorists that they are now paid to send their minions to destroy their clients’ enemies. Business owners use them to crush their competitors and politicians employ them to destabilise states and ruin oppositions. They are now the forces to reckon with or to be feared. They are indeed, the online terrorists.
What is most damaging about social media influencers is that most of their followers are gullible youths. Because these influencers want to make money, they feed lies to these young souls, ruining their future. Many young people have been so biased by these influencers that they no longer believe in themselves. Some have lost hope in themselves, while others blame people, organisations, and the government for anything they pass through. Who knows the type of adults these young ones will turn into in the future if care isn’t taken.
There is a need to regulate these influencers and their actions. Some people have discovered the bad eggs amongst them and have stayed away from them. But what about those that still believed in them? How will they be saved from their clutches? Well, Twitter has shown examples of what should be done to bad influencers. This is a step other social media platforms should take. But then, someone has to call the attention of the media police to do the needful. That is where you and I have a role to play.