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Social Media Regulation: We’ll Work With Facebook, Twitter to Fight Hate Speech – Lai Mohammed

Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says criticism will not stop the federal government from regulating social media.

The minister said this at a meeting with online-news publishers in Abuja on Thursday, hinting that one of the options available to the Nigerian government was to work closely with tech giants like Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram to fight hate speech and fake news. He however did not give details on how this would work.

There have been critical reactions to the government’s move to regulate social media.

But Mohammed said the government does not intend to impair free speech.

He said the fear of stifling free speech or muzzling the media, which the plan has generated, is unfounded.

The minister added that the government will not relenting in “sanitising” social media because of the inherent dangers.

According to him, fake news and hate speech could trigger off “national conflagration”.

“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,” he said.

“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 the 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.

“Finally, and for the avoidance of doubt, while we welcome a robust debate on this issue, the criticisms in certain quarters will not stop us from going ahead with our efforts to sanitize the social media space. It is the right thing to do in the circumstances.”

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