• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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While government mounts pressure, majority of Nigerians want unrestricted internet

Social media

As much as 61 percent of Nigerians would want the government not to tamper with internet access and social media according to a survey released by Afrobarometer on Tuesday.

This is coming at a time when the government is stepping up its pressure on the country’s National Assembly to approve a national policy on the use of social media to control fake news and misinformation.

While defending his ministry’s ballot in October shortly after the ENDSARS protest was put to bed by military forces, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Information and National Orientation where he said that fake news and misinformation are serious and major challenges confronting the country.

“If you go to China, you cannot get Google, Facebook, or Instagram but you can only use your email because they have made sure that it is regulated,” Mohammed said. “In June this year, there was a riot in Ethiopia when a popular musician was killed, What Ethiopia did to curtail the crisis that followed was to shut down the social media for two days, even when Ethiopia hosts the AU.”

Mohammed is not the only government official seeking a gag on the internet. On Tuesday, Northern governors rose from a meeting in Kaduna with the conclusion that controlling the use of the internet has become a necessary step due to its “devastating effect” in spreading fake news.

Access to Internet and social media should not be regulated

But many young Nigerians are not having it. In 2019 when news broke that the government had sponsored a bill to regulate social media, many young people took to social media to denounce the bill and eventually forcing lawmakers to reject it.

“The social media bill gives law enforcement agents the power to arrest those who are found guilty of spreading false information online. While this might be a good thing, “falsehood” or “Truth” have relative meanings. Who determines what is true or false?” Sandra Ezekwesili, a media professional said.

According to the Afrobarometer survey, the level of support is not diminishing despite the violence the marred the protest to end police brutality across the country. The survey described the support from Nigeria as among the highest recorded across 18 African countries captured.

One main reason for the majority of the supporters is the opportunity to get vital information that enables them to have more impact on political processes (76%). There are those (70%) who acknowledge that social media make people more likely to believe fake news and become more intolerant of different opinions, but they think the overall positive effects on society outnumber negative assessments by a ratio of 6 to 1.