By Prince Okafor
lagos—The Federal Government has joined major technology companies, including Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, others, to deploy resources and technology to fight fake news.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this briefing and stakeholders meeting with online publishers/social media influencers on the national campaign against fake news in Lagos, yesterday.
He said: “The war against fake news is a must-win. As a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, Nigeria cannot afford an unbridled spread of fake news. This phenomenon is exploiting our fault lines to aggravate the crises in the country.
“Let me repeat what I said at the launch of this campaign: The Federal Government will not use coercion or engage in censorship in order to fight the fake news epidemic. We also believe there are enough laws in our books to fight this phenomenon.
“We are, therefore, appealing to you and all Nigerians to join us in fighting this scourge. Fortunately, we are not alone in this fight. The big technology companies – Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc – are deploying resources and technology against the scourge.
“Nations of the world and international organizations are taking steps against fake news. Global media organizations are not left behind. Let us do our own part in tackling this scourge.
“The campaign is even more urgent now, in view of the role of fake news in aggravating the various crises in the country as well as the need to check this phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections.
“As part of the modality for the campaign, we said we will use all the information dissemination tools at our disposal, work with both the traditional and social media, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to get the word out there on the need for all to shun fake news and to do everything possible to stem its tide.
“Since the launch, you – the online publishers and social media influencers – are the first stakeholders we are meeting as a group. It is just as well, because you are at the epicentre of the fake news phenomenon. Yes, fake news is not limited to the social media, and it
is not new. What is new, however, is the way and manner it is spread. And the social media is the catalyst for that spread.
“Why? Because all you need to make any news go viral these days is a phone and access to the Internet! That’s a free ticket to any of the social media platforms.
“The traditional media has signed on to this campaign. The Nation, Vanguard and Leadership newspapers are co-sponsoring the campaign. The Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) are also on board.
“I am therefore calling on you to join us in this campaign. A starting point is for you to put a banner on your various platforms that says: SAY NO TO FAKE NEWS! Of course, a platform that abhors fake news will not engage in one.
“We are also telling Nigerians to do two simple things: Before sharing that information on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, always ask how credible the source is, and don’t share any information for which you can’t vouch.’’