We can’t deny it that the use of social media is doing more damage than good to us in the country and it is long overdue to regulate what I called ‘the greatest misinformation machine in history’. In our today’s world, the consequences of social media are on alarming rate. It’s as if the Era of Reason — the period of facts is in fall out — is terminating, and currently awareness is no more acceptable and rational authority is dismissed. In a political system which depends on communal essentials is shrinking, and totalitarianism, which relied on shared lies, is on the saunter. Hate crimes are swelling, as are malicious mugging on individuals (rich & poor) and young and adults. In fact, no one is immune from the damage of social media in Nigeria.
Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, YouTube, Google, Twitter and others — they reach millions of people. The rules of these platforms depend on consciously strengthening the style of content that keeps users betrothed — stories that call to our baser instincts and that prompt indignation, predicament and panic. That is why fake news outperforms unadulterated information, since research found out that lies swell faster than precision. And it’s no shocker that the supreme half-truths mechanism in history has spread the oldest plot conjecture in times past. On the internet, everything can come into view evenly justifiable, it can either be a Photoshop, fake messages, fake videos and fake audios look like valid information. We have been mislaid, it appear, a collective sagacity of the crucial truth upon which governance methods relied. In today’s global world, with the aid of social media; schemes take grasp, it’s simple to cause racial and secular quandary, easier to slander someone, easier to plant seed of discord among couples, easier for foreign nations or agencies to impede in our affairs and easier for hate groups to mobilize.
The social media bill sponsor by Senator Muhammad Sani Musa (APC, Niger East) is not about limiting anyone’s free speech and should not be regarded as such. The bill is about giving people, as well as some of the accused people on world, the biggest stage in record to accomplish a third of the planet. Freedom of speech should on no account be regarded as a freedom of reach. Despondently, there will always be chauvinists, fanatics, racists and child molesters who hide under the cover of freedom of speech through social media to spread lies. It is quite true that we could all accept that we shouldn’t give the privileges to the offenders a free stage to air their views and attack their prey. It is truly pretty horrible how effortless it is to twist plot opinion into sadism. It is an irrefutable truth that individuals who can make one think irrationally can make one commit carnage. And social media platforms let authoritarians push foolishness to millions of populace.
A drain of chauvinism and degraded lies on social media threatens us, our nation, our privacy, our religion, our values, our unity, our business and our democracy. This can’t perhaps be what the founders of social media had wished. Are we saying those that cause us harm through social media should not be sued? Are we saying those that publish or write fake stories can’t be sued for libel? Can’t people be sued for defamation? Shouldn’t government prosecute those whose action will lead to crisis and instability? Our comforts are not merely a last part in themselves; they’re as well as the way to another end. In Nigeria, we say the right to life, freedom, liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. But today these rights are threatened by fake news, conspiracies and lies. The fundamental aim of humankind is to make sure that the masses are not inundated, not harassed and not killed because of who they are, the language they speak, the faith they profess, where they come from, or the political party they belong to.
Today, the European Union (EU) has regulated and still making more laws on the usage of social media which its violators (individuals and owners of the social media) platforms with fine of up to €5 million depending on the gravity of their offences. China, Russia, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Sweden, Liberia, Indonesia, Turkey, UAE, Kenya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda and Italy have all regulated the excess of social media which is causing more damages through spreading of fake news, videos and audios or damaging falsehood against individuals or organizations, and government or private sectors can now be sued, charged and fined.
Why will someone sit in the comfort of their sitting room to fabricate lies and post videos, audios or messages that is a hoax and veiled under the cover of freedom of speech through social media? How many of us will be happy if lies are fabricated against our sisters, wives, daughters and relatives of crimes they did not commit? Who among us will love to see our communities engulfed in crisis courtesy of fake news? Who among us will love their business been ridiculed or crippled courtesy of fake news through hoax video or audio messages on social media?
It is the few people trouncing under the social media to settle scores, defame, ridicule their opponents (business or political), rivals by spreading fake news are the ones having sleepless night with the bill before the Senate. They should rather be supporting the bill which is going to be a shield to every Nigerian, as no one (rich, poor, young, adult, children and women) is immune from the negative consequences of social media. If we don’t control social media at present, — if we don’t even make attempt — the masses right and liberty is no longer guaranteed, we will also not be capable of protecting the genuineness of authority, business, elections or the modesty of the public life. If we are not prepared to do it presently, in the long-run there won’t even be an unrestricted sphere, we won’t be any different from the truth and hoax, and there won’t be focused political system and good governance anymore.
The anti-social media proponents crying foul that the Bill is a copy and paste from the Singapore parliament is nothing but another attempt to stop the Bill which has passed the second reading at the floor of the Senate. When has the adopting of another idea, policy or innovation has becomes a crime? Can we refer to adoption of technology, economic policies, agricultural policies, education policies and even mode of dressing from another country plagiarism? Any honest Nigerian will agree that the social media needs to be regulated in Nigeria in other to guaranty the unity and the betterment of our country.
If we work toward that as our objective, if we recognize genuineness over deceit, open-mindedness over bigotry and understanding over unresponsiveness, then possibly, just maybe, we can discontinue the supreme misinformation mechanism. We can save our names, minors, nation, unity, integrity, respect to our constitution and democracy. We can still encompass a position for open dialogue and free expression. So it is very imperative that the social media bill sponsored by Senator Sani Musa which has passed second reading at the Senate Chamber should be supported for the betterment of our country and its future which the absence of its regulation is already threatening the foundation and our unity as a country.
Ibrahim Garba sent this piece from Jos, Plateau State