Some Nigerians have advised the Federal Government to introduce tracking systems to trace originators of fake news in the country.
Speaking on the impact of fake news in the EndSARS protests last week, they also called on the government to intro laws to punish perpetrators of fake news.
Mr Bola Babarinde, the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), South Africa chapter, told our correspondent on Thursday that fake news was endemic in society.
“With technology and social media, it is a simple task for any charlatan to put together false information and push such out to the public.
“We see this regularly on platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
“However, a complete clamp down on the use of social media is not the proper way to combat fake news.
“The best approach is to instead introduce tracking systems that can trace the originators of such fake news and put in place legislation that duly punishes the perpetrators of such acts.
“Educating and sensitising the public on the importance of fact-checking and verifying information before accepting it as true is also very important.
“In the hands of unscrupulous individuals, fake news is a propaganda tool used to destabilise and heat up the polity thus it is also important that the public be educated about the dangers of consuming and acting on fake news.
“It is important that government is more open and consistent with the information that it gives to the public because an absence of details about what the government is doing or the policies it is implementing, creates information gaps that the purveyors of fake news take advantage of to spread their own mischievous information,” Babarinde said.
Mr Abayomi Adesanya, a former Chairman, Okitipupa Local Government, Ondo State, advocated for stiff restrictions on the use of social media.
“There must be stiff restrictions to the use of social media and more information details of social media handlers for tracking to curb circulation of fake news.
“If not, one day, it can set the nation on fire or put nations against each other or a tribe against another tribe.
“The government, as a matter of urgency, should begin more holistic surveillance of the Nigerian social media space and monitor what goes out or find a means of holding everybody responsible for any information disseminated on anyone’s page,” he said.
Adesanya said that the Federal Government should have held town hall meetings with the EndSARS protesters at the early stages of the protest.
“When the protest was still limited to Lagos and Abuja, the government should have held town hall meetings with the protesters at the National Stadia in Lagos and Abuja respectively since they do not have a coordinated leadership to brief them on the disbandment of SARS.
“The government should have dispersed the protesters with teargas, hot water, pepper spray, rubber bullets, sleeping gas, among other means that is not life threatening, rather than life bullets.
“In future, quick intervention/preventive measures should be deployed during any protest, no matter how small it may look,” he said.
Chief Joshua Adewunmi, a retired Permanent Secretary in the old Ondo State, advised government to always provide adequate information to citizens on its policies and programmes to discourage fake news.
“The protesters meant well; the government encouraged fake news in this occasion by not been positive immediately.
“Government’s insensitivity enabled hoodlums and miscreants to highjack the protest.
“Most of the protesters are jobless. In Nigeria only those people who know politicians get jobs.
“Government cannot curb fake news without making a good majority o our youths to have jobs, make youth employable, guarantee happiness, conduct free and fair elections, live by example, avoid nepotism, favoritism, provide avenues for people to be self employed,” Adewunmi said.
Dr Theo Adebowale, a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, said that clamp down on social media by the government would be counter productive.
Adebowale advised the government to engage the army of youths regularly for them to be productive.
“Clamp down on social media will do more harm than good. Profitable engagement in socio-economic activities, merit for recognition will yield good rapport,” he said.
He attributed the protracted protest by the EndSARS protesters to wide communication gap before response by the government.
“Government’s believability has suffered, fake news is mere catalyst. Youth restiveness from COVID-19, unemployment, a year of idleness made an army available for physical exertion,” Adebowale said.
Mr Francis Akinduntire, a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo, called for regular media literacy programmes for citizens as part of efforts to curb fake news in the country.
Akinduntire described fake news as a real challenge in the country given the fragile social setting.
“You will agree with me that fake news can mislead the public and cause tension in the already tensed political climate with communal and reprisal attacks here and there like what happened in Lagos during the EndSARS protests.
“Government should create awareness and improve the standard of education and media literacy, particularly for young people to be highly critical on what to trust on conventional and social media platforms,” Akinduntire said.