#EndSARS: Social media was used to guide hoodlums to loot, destroy properties ― Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that regulation of Social media has become necessary in the country following the breakdown of law and order during the #EndSARS protest.

The Minister alleged that the social media was instrumental in guiding looters and arsonist to certain properties, both public and private when the #EndSARS protest was hijacked by hoodlums.

Speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting with members of the Broadcast Organization (BON) of Nigeria, the Minister said the violence that resulted from the hijack of the #EndSARS protest was catalyzed by fake news and disinformation, which spread like wildfire on social media.

“Social media was used to guide arsonists and looters to certain properties, both public and private, during the #EndSARS violence.

“Then, pictures of persons, including some celebrities and even non-Nigerians, who were supposedly killed at the Lekki Toll Gate by soldiers, were circulated widely, only for those persons to refute such claims.

“This brings me to the issue of social media regulation. You must have heard about the hoopla this issue has generated in the media.

Well, I want to confirm that we will definitely act to ensure the responsible use of social media. You may call that regulation.

Mohammed said regulating social media is not the same as stifling press freedom or free speech.

“Fake news and disinformation are not the same as free speech. This government has no plan to stifle free speech, neither do we have any intention of shutting down the internet. Social media has come to stay, and those who use it responsibly have nothing to fear,” he said.

He said the issue of regulating social media content is generating debate around the world, and Nigeria is not an exception.

Speaking on the fine imposed on 3 television stations for using ‘unverified’ videos of the #LekkiTollGateShooting in their reports, the Minister said two of the stations have paid in full, while one has paid in part.

“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to broadcast stations to avoid using unverified information from social media, as this is fraught with danger. Despite the temptation, the stations must adhere strictly to the gate-keeping tradition instead of rushing to use materials that are not authenticated,” he noted.

Furthermore, the Information Minister said the use of unverified videos and the non-adherence to the basic tenets of journalism have combined to land CNN in trouble.

He said, “the station has been caught in the web of fake news and disinformation, after it relied heavily on videos it took from social media for a supposed exclusive investigation on the incident at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th”.

“The station was also found to be inconsistent. After tweeting, without a shred of evidence, from its verified handle on Oct. 23rd that soldiers killed 38 peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th, the same station now said only one person was killed – after a month of its investigation. What an embarrassment!

“It is baffling that an organization like CNN will rely on unauthenticated videos to carry out an investigation. More worrisome is that an international broadcaster like CNN will switch casualty figures so casually without a credible source.”

He wondered why media houses downplayed the killing of security agents and the destruction of their properties.

“For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations burnt down.

“The killing of the policemen was particularly gruesome and dastardly. Yet, human rights organizations and the media have not given this the attention it deserved. Rather, they have remained fixated on the so-called massacre.

“It seems human rights do not matter for men and women in uniform. This is unfortunate and must be corrected. Please note that the violence also left 57 civilians dead, 269 private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalized, 243 government facilities burnt/vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted,” the Minister added.

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