From personal experience, hardly a day passes by without consciously and/or unconsciously on social media. In fact, as soon as the public power supply goes off, the next thing to grab is the phone in order to access social media and get news feed and relate with family and friends.
The same is the day to day experience of most Nigerians, as most Nigerians not only try to ease themselves of the daily economic hardship they face but also see social media as a tool to unleash and raise their voices against some of the unjust policies of Government. They not only raise their voices at some of the Government’s unjust policies, but they also commend them in some aspects of their policies and programmes. In order words, social media gives voice to people.
The purpose of this piece is to maintain a neutral ground as much as possible by weighing the pros and con of this indispensable companion of this modern time.
Much as important as varying opinions need to be heard through social media, it is indeed safe to state categorically that social media may be an unsafe haven that can undermine National Security.
The recent #Endsars protests across the country which was initially peaceful before it was hijacked by hoodlums will remain a case study for a long time as unsubstantiated videos and graphic pictures went viral, thus partly fueling the unrest.
In fact, stations like AIT, Channels TV and Arise TV were fined the sum of N3,000,000 each, which according to NBC, were as a result of lifting from the social media and broadcasting unverifiable video materials on their various platforms. This they believe partly fuels the crisis that ensued during the #Endsars protest.
Recently, CNN was threatened with sanctions by Nigeria’s information minister for deliberately lifting video of the Lekki toll gate shooting from the social media to subsequently use it as the basis for their Investigative Journalism. That case should be left for authorities concerned to determine.
The above however may easily be considered as the disadvantages associated with social media technology. Then the question is, should social media be a gag or regulated based on the above scenario? The answer should be in the negative.
1. Social media is self-regulating, by this, we mean, it has in-built tools that enable it to regulate itself. The inventors of this social media technology built in it, self-regulatory tools that helps guard against several vices such as bullying, to some extent fake news, and graphic images. Users are encouraged to report fake news or unsubstantiated piece of information.
2. There are enough laws to guide against hate speech and other cybercrimes in Nigeria. The Government just needs to put in more effort to strengthen the existing laws.
3. Social media remains the voice of the masses against tyranny and social injustice, therefore, an attempt to unduly regulate or gag it is antithetical to freedom of speech.
4. Social media creates empowerment. At least, it affords the people the opportunity of creating awareness for their goods and services, and any attempt to regulate it may lead to unpleasant consequences.
5. Social media has faster coverage and dissemination of news, especially where the traditional media are unable to reach. By this, eye witness account evidenced by videos and pictures are posted on social media which requires diligent verification to determine the authenticity.
Wherever and however the pendulum swings, and as earlier stated, this piece is intended to spark up debate on the above subject matter for those concerned.
But conclusively, the Government should be able to douse fake news on social media by continuously churning out information and more information on its programs and policies on social media and to be on standby for fake news in order to douse immediately before it spreads like wildfire.
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