Social media regulation: A delicate balance

The launch of the book “Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria” by Dr Omoniyi Ibietan has sparked a renewed discussion about the regulation of social media in Nigeria.

The book, which examines the use of social media in the 2015 general elections, has been praised by politicians, academics, and industry leaders for its insights into the impact of social media on Nigerian politics.

However, the book has also raised some concerns about the potential for social media to be used to spread misinformation and hate speech. This has led to calls for the government to regulate social media in order to protect citizens from these harms.

Those who support regulation argue that it is necessary to prevent the spread of harmful content and to ensure that social media is used for legitimate purposes. They point to the fact that social media has been used to spread misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and to incite violence.

However, others argue that regulation would stifle free speech and innovation. They point out that social media has been a powerful tool for political mobilization and that it has helped to give a voice to marginalized groups. They also argue that regulation would be difficult to implement and enforce.

Here is what speakers at the event said: 

Frank Nweke Jr., former Minister of Communications:

“The book dwells on better understanding of social media and the conclusion overall is that in the coming years, the impact of social media will increase with usage.

Having come out of election myself, I recognise the opportunity provided by social media. But I also worry about its adverse impact. The issues about fake news and their potential, not just to undermine, libel and slander people but to precipitate conflict.

So, it is something that government must continue to work on, professional association need to work on to ensure that society is protected from such hazards. Even though, people suggest that most people are poor, they do not have android phone, live in urban areas, they cannot afford data, the truth is that when you look at internet penetration today, it is high. So, I do not agree that social media has little impact as the author may suggest.”

Tajudeen Abbas, Speaker of the House of Representatives:

“Though, I am yet to read the book, but with what I have heard many people say about it, it’s a masterpiece. So, I would like to thank the author for writing such a masterpiece.

Aside from social media, there are dynamic platforms for communication and engagement.

The book should awaken the youth and the general public to go back to the reading culture. I commend the author, he has not left the field of struggle. The efforts of Mr Ibietan to put into publishing, the work is commendable.”

Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC):

“The social media has come to stay but it is the duty of the people to use social media responsibly. Network enormity has become a source of concern and the way and manner we resort to inflammatory and defamatory content to denigrate our political opponents do not add value to the political process.”

He stressed the need to ensure a responsible way of using the social media to do politics, saying that, “You cannot kill the social media, we have to learn to live with it, we have to find a responsible way to use the social media.”

Dr. Omoniyi Ibietan, book author

“What we found new is the fact that this is in contest that there is a sense in which humanity is connected but there are also variations. What we are trying to do in this book is to say, years activities in the cyber space, which of course has enabled by the internet, and It is a global thing.”

“However, in Nigeria we are not just consumers of technology, but we are applying them in context that gives meaning, not just to our lives as individuals and people who operate businesses. As a nation, communication is primordial with man, shaping our lives and businesses and so, it is the most central aspect of politics. There is a sense in which we relay using social technology that may be injurious to the beautiful society we are trying to create.”

“One other thing we looked at is the role of historical media, the fact that we have social media, does not mean the historical media is dead. Because what we found is that people also fed in the historical media and took those things back onto the social media space.”

The debate over social media regulation is likely to continue for some time. There is no easy answer, and the best approach will likely vary from country to country. However, it is important to have a conversation about this issue so that we can find ways to use social media for good while also protecting ourselves from its harms.

In the context of Nigeria, the issue of social media regulation is particularly important. Nigeria has a large and growing population of social media users, and social media has played a significant role in recent elections. However, Nigeria also has a history of political violence and instability, and there are concerns that social media could be used to exacerbate these problems.

The government of Nigeria has taken some steps to regulate social media. In 2021, the government announced that it would be requiring social media platforms to register with the government and to comply with a set of regulations. However, these regulations have not yet been finalized, and it is unclear how they will be implemented.

The debate over social media regulation in Nigeria is likely to be a long and complex one.

However, it is an important conversation to have, as social media is becoming increasingly important in Nigerian society.

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