No going back on social media regulation -Lai Mohammed

There is no going back on social media regulation, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has said.

Lai Mohammed, stated this on Thursday when he met with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers in Abuja adding that the government will not be deterred by criticisms.

He stressed that it was the right thing to do.

The minister said the government was yet to come out with the modalities for the sanitization, adding that it was not going to be a unilateral process.

Besides, he said there were many options open to government in regulating the social media besides enacting new laws.

He said: “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 also allayed fears of muzzling the media and stifling free speech.

He said: “In the first instance, we have not told anyone how we plan to go about the regulation. This is because this will not be a unilateral process.

“It will involve all stakeholders coming together to chart the path forward. 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.

“In the second instance, there are many options open to us in regulating social media. Apart from enacting new laws, we can also leverage on technology, working with the big techies like Facebook,

Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram to check the spread of fake news and hate speech.

“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.”

Mohammed said the government was not averse to criticisms.

His words: “Again, the fear of stifling free speech or muzzling the media is totally unfounded. We have no such plan. As we speak, people are on social media criticising the administration.

“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 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.

“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.”

Mohammed said other countries doing something similar include Germany, the UK, Singapore, China, South Korea, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia.

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