This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
Nigeria wants to put mechanisms in place to control how people make use of the Internet, particularly in spreading information. Abdulfatai Buhari (APC- Oyo North), the Chairman Senate Committee on ICT and cybercrime said the National Assembly will pass a law to regulate Nigerians on Facebook, Twitter etc because, according to him, Nigerians are misusing these platforms.
We've been here before
This is not the first time the Federal Government has attempted to regulate and monitor the use of social media. In 2016, the Senate sought to do this but the idea was met with stiff resistant by Nigerians who felt it was infringing on their right to self-expression.
However, according to the Senate Committee on ICT and cybercrime, the committee had received a lot of petitions from Nigerians, particularly those who have fallen victim of false accusations on social media, calling on the Senate to regulate it.
“I remember at the beginning of this administration when we were trying to bring in law to regulate the social media, I could remember what we saw at that time was not palatable.” said Senator Abdulfatai Buhari
A bill to affect the way the media is being used has already been presented to the Senate and passed the first reading. The second reading to come up soon.
The Government is right to be worried about how social media is used to spread, often unverified, information. A good example of where fake news thrives at the moment is in the spread of information around the Herdsmen crisis in the middle belt region. There have also been fake accusations and claims on social media in the build-up to elections.
However, in Nigeria's budding democracy, social media has often become a way for the populace to hold their elected leaders accountable and share different ideas. One thing that is still agreed upon, is the need to fight fake news.
But do the people trust the Government to regulate fake news?
A large number of social media users do not trust the Government to monitor social media activities. While it is possibly coming from a good place, it may fast be abused or used as a tool to silence people.