Tech

We had the option of shutting down social media in Nigeria during the #EndSARS protest – Nigeria’s Youth Minister

The federal government on Monday maintained that it would work hand-in-hand with the National Assembly to ensure ‘fake news’ being circulated on social media is controlled within the legal framework.

Mr Sunday Dare, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, who stated this while appearing on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, monitored by NewsWireNGR said other countries had taken certain measures to exercise some levels of restraint over the cyberspace but Nigeria was yet to do so.

According to him, the government had the option of shutting down the social media space in Nigeria during the #EndSARS protests but chose not to tread the path, adding that the National Assembly will do justice to the proposed regulation of the social media to guard against the spread of fake news.

“The issue of fake news is bothersome for the government and the protests brought home the dangers of fake news.

“The talk around regulation, of course, we have a National Assembly, it will have to go through the normal process. We have a constitution, we have to make sure it does not violate certain provisions of the constitution that has to do with freedom of expression.

“Where you have fake news destroying lives, the government has a responsibility to make sure that there is a level of control. It is not censorship but some level of control,” the minister said.

NewsWireNGR reported that thousands of Nigerians marched in Lagos and major cities to demand an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, a police unit accused of extrajudicial killings and abuses

Mr Dare said the internet and social media have tremendous benefits but “as a country, we must start to think of how to curtail fake news.

“There must be some level of responsibility and some level of punishment to those that will create chaos out of mischief in our country.”

He noted the fact that the Nigerian youths used social media to drive the recent # EndSARS protests against police brutality saying while that was commendable, the cyberspace must be regulated.

The minister added, “The fact that how youths used it to mobilise is commendable. But the talk about the regulation of the social media has been around for a while.

“We’ve seen other countries taking practical steps in that direction, this country has not done that.

“Even during the # EndSARS protests, the country had an option (but) the country never went for that final option.

There was no time the cyberspace was shut down, people were still able to connect themselves through the various social media platforms. And that shows a government that is committed to the rights of freedom and association of every citizen of this country.”

NewsWireNGR learns that a bill that was laid to rest during the 8th assembly is currently being considered again after the protest. The then draft bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith,” proposed by Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah from the ruling All People’s Congress party (APC), makes it illegal to start any type of petition without swearing an affidavit that the content is true in a court of law.

Its proposals include up to two years in prison, or a fine of $10,000, or both, for anyone posting an “abusive statement” via text message, Twitter, WhatsApp, or any other form of social media. It also creates offences with varying penalties for false publications by print, radio and TV outlets.

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