Fake News May Cause National Conflagration- Lai Mohammed
Information and Culture Minister , Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that fake news can cause national conflagration if not checked.
The minister stated this in his maiden meeting with the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers(GOCOP) in Abuja on Thursday.
While noting that government has no hidden agenda in regulating the social media, he expressed concern on the abuse by those who are bent onspreading fake news and hate speech, and the dangers inherent in thatfor national peace and unity.“I want to use this opportunity to solicit your support, as visibleand influential players on the social media, for the National Campaignfor Fake News and Hate Speech which we launched last year”, he said.He said the intense debate that has been generated by government announcement,is a welcome development, stressing that the announcement has pushedthe issue of the social media to the front burner.According to him, an interesting part of the debate has been that even those who oppose the regulationhave acknowledged the dangers inherent in the irresponsible use of thesocial media, especially by anarchists and non-patriots.He noted that most of those who are opposed to theplanned regulation of the social media have based their argument ontwo main points:i) – That the nation already has enough laws to deal with those whoare using the social media to purvey fake news and hate speech and,ii) – That the planned regulation is aimed at stifling free speech andmuzzling the media, especially those critical of the AdministrationHe gave assurance that in going about the regulation process, everybody will be carried along as it will not be a unilateral process.“It will involve all stakeholders coming together to chart thepath forward. Let me announce here that we have just kick-started theprocess. We have dispatched letters inviting representatives of themedia, civil society, technology and security experts, onlinepublishers, bloggers, relevant agencies of government, etc, for this purpose.He noted that there are many options open to government in regulating the social media, adding that apart from enacting new laws, government can alsoleverage on technology, working with the big techies like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram to check the spread of fake news and hate speech.He emphasised that the fear of stifling free speech or muzzling the media istotally unfounded as government has no such plan.“As we speak, people are onthe social media criticizing the Administration. We have no problem with that, because it is part of democracy. People are using the traditional media to criticize the Administration. Why not? This is ademocracy and there should be plurality of opinions” he said.