The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has called for a national policy on the use of the Social Media, to help curb the misuse of this means of communication. He said this at the National Defence College in Abuja while giving a talk on the topic, “The Impact of Fake News and Hate Speech on National Security in Nigeria’’.

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The Minister said technology is needed to help monitor social media and stop the spread of fake news and hate speech. He said the lack of national policy and relevant technology have made it difficult for the government to tackle the menace of Social Media. He also said many extremists such as the Boko Haram terrorists group do use social media to propagate their evil ideas too.

Lai Mohammed said Nigeria needs to learn best practices from other countries around the world including China. The Minister said several countries have also enacted laws or leveraged on regulations to ensure the responsible use of social media in their country.

The minister from Kwara state said security and intelligence agencies do have an important role in helping stop the misuse of social media. He gave examples of the harmful effects of social media on Nigeria which included helping make the fight against polio in Nigeria longer and more difficult because of the fake news that polio vaccines was aimed at depopulating Nigeria. He also said fake news on social media fueled the clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria. The minister said those fueling violence in Nigeria were picking violent pictures and videos from other countries and making them look like they happened in Nigeria. The recent example the minister gave was during the xenophobic attacks against other Africans in South Africa where Nigerian youths were incited by some videos in other countries to the point of attacking some South Africa business interest.

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Lai Mohammed said Nigerian lives are continuously at risk by misinformation caused by social media. He said his ministry has been organizing sessions to curb fake news and hate speech in Nigeria as early as 2017 and that has taken him to several media houses. The minister said he his ministry has reached out to technology giants like Google and Facebook and that this alliance with the American global giants helped in the advent of COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria. He said Facebook helped remove fake stories that his ministry was able to flag.

The minister said the government has begun reforming the broadcasting industry to help stop hate speech by broadcasting stations. He also said the government has recorded some success in bringing those issues to the table of national discourse. While he believes government can not do it alone, he assured Nigerians that the government will do everything possible to ensure fake news and hate speech not to jeopardise the existence of Nigeria and its security. He also advised Nigerians to responsibly use social media when online.

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