Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has stated that the federal government does not intend shutting down social media in the country.
The minister made the statement at a press conference following the #EndSARS protest, which disrupted business activities in some states and the FCT.
Lai Mohammed blamed the spread of fake news on social media as the factor responsible for the outbreak of violence in different parts of the country.
The minister said the government has no plan of shutting down social media platforms in the country despite the adverse effect such platforms had on the outcome of the protest.
Sunday Dare, minister of youth, had said the government had the option of shutting down social media during the #EndSARS protests but chose not to do so because it is “committed to the rights of every citizen”.
Mohammed earlier warned that if left unregulated, social media would destroy the country.
Many Nigerians have kicked against the planned regulation of social media.
But Mohammed said the government will go ahead to regulate social media.
“Keen watchers of the developments cannot fail to notice the role played by the social media in the EndSARS protest. As a veritable tool for mass mobilization, the organizers of the protest of course leveraged heavily on social media for that purpose. But on the other hand, the same social media was used to spread fake news and disinformation that catalyzed the violence that was witnessed across the country,” he said.
“This development has reinforced the campaign against fake news and disinformation, which we launched in 2018. As a matter of fact, as far back as 2017, when we dedicated that year’s National Council on Information to the issue of fake news and disinformation, we had been expressing concerns on the dangers posed by irresponsible use of the new media platform. The concerns culminated in the launch of the national campaign which I referred to earlier.
“As we have said many times, no responsible government will stand by and allow such abuse of social media to continue. The fake news/disinformation purveyors have latched on to our concerns to allege that the Federal Government is planning to shut down social media. No, we have no plans to shut down the social media. What we have always advocated, and what we will do, is to regulate the social media. Nigeria is not alone in this regard. The issue of social media regulation is an ongoing debate not just in Nigeria but around the world, including in the United States, which is the flag flyer of constitutional democracy. Even the owners of the various social media platforms, including Facebook, are increasingly joining the call for content regulation.”
Mohammed further faulted those he accused of “playing to the gallery” regarding the issue of social media regulation.
He argued that if social media is left uncensored, there may not be a country left to defend.
“It is incumbent upon us all, therefore, to strike a balance between free speech – which this Administration is committed to upholding – and fake news/disinformation, which it is determined to fight.”