Nigerian govt says no going back on social media regulation

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, said, there is no going back on the plan by the Nigerian government to regulate social media in Nigeria to deter and punish hate speech.

Mr Mohammed who said this at a session with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers in Abuja added that the government will not be discouraged from the plan by criticism.

He said that it was the right thing to do.

The Senate on Tuesday introduced a bill that will regulate the use of social media in Nigeria.

The sponsor of the bill said it will curb fake news on the internet.

The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ was sponsored by a senator, Mohammed Sani Musa.

A similar anti-social media bill introduced by the previous eighth Senate sparked outrage across the country and was later withdrawn.

If the bill was passed into law, people found guilty of making false remarks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar media, would face two years in jail or N2 million fine.

With Nigerians accusing the present government of plotting to muzzle free speech, the minister said the uproar will not stop the government from introducing regulation.

“People are using traditional media to criticise the administration. Why not? This is a democracy and there should be a plurality of opinions.

“But our concern has to do with the abuse of social media by those who are bent on spreading fake news and hate speech, and the dangers inherent in that are for our national peace and unity. We have no hidden agenda.

“As I have said many times, no responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.”

However, he said the government was yet to come out with the modalities for the sanitization.

“It is, therefore, premature for anyone to say ‘Oh, there are enough laws already to deal with social media deviants’. In essence, the committee we plan to set up will determine the best option for us to use.”

The minister said there were many options open to government in regulating social media besides enacting new laws.

“Let me say, straight on, that the intense debate – and the debate has indeed been intense – that has been generated by our announcement is a welcome development. This is because the announcement has pushed the issue of social media to the front burner. We can only benefit from such a 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 oppose 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.”

The minister said other countries involved in similar things include Germany, the UK, Singapore, China, South Korea, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia.

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