By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has called for conventions and agreements between nations to regulate the social media and counter the phenomenon of hate speech.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday that the Vice President made the call at the BBC Conference on Hate Speech held in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference was part of activities leading to coming general election.
Osinbajo said that the social media was under multi-jurisdictional regulation, necessitating more collaboration among nations to regulate them.
“In other words, shouldn’t we be looking at some kinds of conventions; some kind of agreements between countries, between nations that help us to regulate the social media much more effectively,’’ he said.
He said that a lot of disinformation in the public space at present came from the social media, pointing out that the traditional press was obviously more responsible.
He said “The simple reason why they are more responsible is because there is consequence. It is easier to sue the traditional media. They are bound by local laws and it is much easier to hold them to account”.
He, however, expressed concern that it would be difficult to deal with consequence of infractions associated with the social media without infringing on freedom of information and press freedom.
“So, freedom of the press means my freedom to own a blog, my freedom to disseminate information.
“But the question is: How we regulate that without infringing on these fundamental freedoms?
“I think that at the end of the day it would come to some kind of a balance because, really, it would be impossible to regulate social media without substantially infringing on fundamental right, especially freedom of expression.
“There is no way that you can leave that power in the hand of government or the hand of the legislature without your finding some level of overbearing activity on the path of the government or the legislature,” he said.
He said that said there was need to interrogate some of the information going into the traditional media, which were also seen in the social media.
He urged the media to go beyond getting two sides of a story to carry out independent investigations to ascertain the facts of every issue before publishing their stories.
NAN reports that a panel session of the conference also featured Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Festus Okoye, a blogger, Uche Pedro and the Editor-in-Chief of a national newspaper, Funke Egbemode.
Okoye, who represented the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, asked government agencies to be proactive in releasing information to avoid speculations.
“I believe that if governments are proactive, if agencies are proactive, if parastatals are proactive in putting out information in the public space, the chances of fake news gaining ascendancy will be reduced.
“But somebody who wants to misinform, somebody who wants to create confusion, somebody who wants to bring the country down will still go ahead with this type of information,” he said.
Okoye said that the INEC had decided to talk more to Nigerians and communicate its activities more effectively.
He said INEC would hold weekly press briefings to tell Nigerians about its activities and ensure that those who put out fake news would not make any impact.
On his part, Soyinka reminded journalists in Nigeria of the need to be more responsible in putting out information.
He said the consequences of many journalists copying what one of their colleagues had written could have far-reaching implications on the society.
Earlier, the Head of West African Languages of the BBC World Service, Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye, said BBC would begin a countdown to the election on Jan. 17.
Ogunseye said 50 reporters would be deployed to would cover the general election in Nigeria.