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How to sanitise socia media – lecture participants

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Discussants and other participants at the fourth annual lecture of Penpushing Media have called for what they described as “co-regulation” of the social media to achieve sanity in the use of the platform.

They followed the lead of the guest speaker, Dr Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, who is the Regional Director for West Africa at Ford Foundation. In her paper titled, Social Media Regulation: Insecurity and Elections Accountability in Nigeria, Aniagolu-Okoye had explained that “co-regulation” would involve all relevant stakeholders in the process and use of the media.

The participants resolved that there should be some sort of regulation of social media platform as regards to its usage to achieve accountability and credible elections. Since the media is crucial to governance, they charged social media practitioners to be conversant with, and function within the specific ambit of existing laws and self-regulate, where necessary.

Stakeholders expressed concern over the use of the social media in the promotion of hate speech and fake news, adding that these are security threats and risks to credible process regarding the forthcoming general elections. They pointed out that people hide under or use social media to spread hate speeches, hack private accounts, as well as misinterpret and misrepresent others deliberately.

Participants also challenged social media platforms to do much more in bringing about electoral reforms, checkmate endemic problems like vote buying, rigging in whatever form, electoral violence, thuggery, manipulation of electoral laws by both politicians and security agents, as well as poor participation in the electoral process. They encouraged the media to assist in building on the success of the recently concluded Osun State governorship election.

They challenged social media platforms to be responsible and self-regulate, mobilise for mass participation in the coming elections, and foster greater unity among Nigerians.

Participants charged the government to be more responsive to citizens needs and aspirations and build trust between it and the citizens such that social media regulation in whatever guise would receive the buy-in of the people and would not be viewed with suspicion. They stressed that government could only function effectively when it is trusted by the citizens.

Participants noted that the social media has become an important tool of political activism and a platform for informal political debates. With the existing data of 33 million social media users in Nigeria as of January 2021, and a cellphone access figure of over 48 percent as well as internet access of 36 percent, they said that the social media remains the first port of call for many information-seekers and the available medium to willing information-givers.

But they observed that “the bad, the good and, the ugly (have) become occupiers of the social media space, dealing in all kinds of information, which could be inimical or advantageous to national growth and unity”.

Participants further noted that the situation had ushered in an era of information disorder where fake news, misinformation, and/or disinformation thrives. And because consumption of mobile social media contents has become the norm, they said it is becoming increasingly difficult to track the spread of false information.

Participants noted that while there are adequate laws in the statute books, all efforts by the Nigerian government at regulating the social media had been self-serving and misdirected.

The lecture witnessed a convergence of political, media practitioners and other prominent citizens. Among them were former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Emir of Kano, His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi Lamido; the wife of a former President of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs.) Bola Obasanjo; and the Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Kunle Oluomo.

Panelists included Executive Director of the International Press Centre, Mr Lanre Arogundade; Founder WFM Radio, Toun Okewale-Sonaiya; former Deputy Inspector General of Police, Almajid Alli, who was represented by Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi; and National Coordinator, West African Network for Peace Building, Bridget Osakwe.

The lecture was held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun State on Thursday, 21 July. Participants included eminent traditional rulers, media practitioners.

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