World governments have a pretty complex relationship with tech giants and social media companies right now. The Nigerian government is among nations looking at a way of making social media better. The government is reportedly considering ways to “sanitise” social media.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture was quoted as saying the time was right for government intervention in the social media space:
The government may just no longer fold its arms and allow this to continueLai Mohammed speaking on government intervention on social media
The government seems to be targeting journalists who spread fake news through social media platforms as the Minister warned that broadcast stations disseminating fake news and spreading inciting and divisive comments will be sanctioned. The Minister is also said to have reassured responsible journalists that they will not be sanctioned.
As always the problem with the regulation of social media from governments is that it could very easily turn into a consolidation of power exercise. Without clearly defining what fake news, misinformation and inciting comments even well-meaning journalists can end up being persecuted under the guise of law.
Whilst there are many problems with social media and regulation of some sort is welcome its hard to see governments doing the best of jobs. What happens when journalists have factual but damaging stories about the government? Will the government decide to fall on its sword or will they come out and denounce the journalist for spreading misinformation?
The formation of an independent body with representatives from different sectors including government would ensure balance and fairness in cracking down on misinformation.