By Chimezie Godfrey
Stakeholders comprised of media professionals and politicians across the country called for regulation of social media platforms to ensure accountability and credible elections in the country.
Stakeholders made known their resolution in a statement jointly signed by the organization’s founder, Dimeji Kayode-Adedeji and the chairman of the planning committee, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi at the end of the Pen-Pushing 4th anniversary conference. Media titled “Social Media Regulation: Insecurity and Elections in Nigeria”, held on Thursday in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The anniversary conference was a convergence of political and media practitioners in the country among which were former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; the 14th Emir of Kano, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi Lamido; the wife of a former President of Nigeria, Chief (Mrs) Bola Obasanjo, Kunle Oluomo, Speaker of Ogun State Assembly and Regional Director for West Africa, Ford Foundation, the Dr. Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye, who was the keynote speaker.
Panelists included Lanre Arogundade, Founder, International Press Center; ; Toun Okewale-Sonaiya, founder of WFM Radio; Almajid Alli, former Deputy Inspector General of Police; represented by Muyiwa Adejobi, Nigeria Police Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Force and Bridget Osakwe, National Coordinator, West African Peacebuilding Network, among others.
The statement said participants, including eminent traditional leaders, media professionals and online operators, deliberated on the following issues:
Participants noted that social media has become an important tool for political activism and a platform for informal political debates, adding that with existing data of thirty-three million social media users in Nigeria as of January 2021 , and a mobile phone access figure of over 48 percent as well as internet access of 36 percent, social media remains the first port of call for many information seekers and the support available for volunteer informants. Consequently, the bad, the good and the ugly become occupiers of the social media space, dealing with all kinds of information, which could be hostile or beneficial to national growth and unity.
He said participants further observed that the situation has ushered in an era of information disorder where fake news, disinformation and/or disinformation thrives and because the consumption of mobile social media content has become the norm, it is becoming increasingly difficult to track the spread. false information.
The statement pointed out that participants noted that while there are adequate laws in the statutes, all efforts by the Nigerian government to regulate social media have been selfish and misdirected.
He revealed that the participants in light of the above decided that it was necessary to regulate social media, among other measures.
The statement said: “Participants decided that there needs to be some kind of regulation of the social media platform with regards to its use to achieve accountability and credible elections.
“Stakeholders who are in favor of co-regulation, as questioned by the guest speaker, expressed their concern about the use of social media in the promotion of hate speech and fake news, adding that they constitute security threats and risks to a credible process regarding the upcoming general election, especially as people hide under or use social media to spread hate speech, hack into private accounts, and to interpret and deliberately misrepresent others.
“After exhaustive deliberation on achieving healthy use of social media through regulation, participants emphasized that co-regulation is key involving all necessary stakeholders. , participants urged social media practitioners to know and operate within the specific framework of existing laws and to self-regulate where necessary.
“Participants called on government to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of citizens, building trust between itself and citizens, so that social media regulation, in whatever form, will gain buy-in. of the people and will not be viewed with suspicion, emphasizing that government can only function effectively if citizens trust it.
“Participants also challenged social media platforms to do much more to bring about electoral reforms, endemic checkmate issues like vote buying, rigging in any form, election violence , violence, manipulation of election laws by politicians and security officials, as well as low turnout in the electoral process, adding that the media must help build on the success of the Osun Governor election recently concluded.
He added, “In conclusion, participants challenged social media platforms to be accountable and self-regulating, to mobilize for mass turnout in the upcoming elections and to foster greater unity among Nigerians.”