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The Federal Government on Tuesday said Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gun powder as a result of fake news on social media platforms.
It said it was worried that the next war might be “fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news” on social media space.
To prove this, government made reference to the #EndSARS protests, saying it was a war fought on social media by youths, who neither watch television nor listen to the radio but depend on smartphones and data.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this while defending his ministry’s 2020 budget proposal before the House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics, and Values in Abuja.
Mohammed described fake news and misinformation as the biggest challenges facing the country that the social media space should be immediately regulated through a social media policy.
But, the member representing Amuwo Odofin Constituency of Lagos State, Emmanuel Oghene, warned against the attempt to shut down the social media space in the country, saying it would be counter-productive.
The minister, who however, was quick to explain that the government’s desire was merely to have a social media policy, added that the authorities had since 2017 identified the dangers of fake news and misinformation, hence, decided to launch a national campaign against them.
He said “The biggest challenge facing Nigeria today is fake news and misinformation. Based on that, we dedicated an entire National Council on Information meeting to that issue after which we launched a national campaign against fake news in July 2018.
“We said then that the next war will be fought without a shot being fired, but with the use of fake news. We didn’t stop there. We went on tour of all media houses to solicit their support in the fight against fake news. We launched the campaign to regulate social media which was bitterly contested by the stakeholders.
“We kept saying that if we don’t regulate social media, it will destroy us. Social media and fake news will not destroy Nigeria. In 2017, there was a fake video of herdsmen and farmers’ crisis. It was a video of what happened in Tanzania and was played in Nigeria as if it was true.
“In 2017, a very popular entertainer in Nigeria raised a false alarm that students of the College of Education in Kaduna State had been murdered.
“There was almost a reprisal, only for him to find out that it was not true. In the same 2017, we found out that some of the videos being posted were things that happened in other parts of the world.
“When there was a problem between South African and Nigeria, they were posting videos of what happened in India and Tanzania to suggest that Nigerians were being roasted alive. That was what led to the reprisals in the malls.
“At every time, the government has continued to draw attention at this menace. Unfortunately, it is not happening in Nigeria alone.”