By Khoze Clement
Civil society organizations in its recent organizational assessment of the social media bill that has been widely rejected by countless Nigerians proposed alternative measures to tackle fake news.
The group believes that there are democratic solutions that Nigeria can create or adopt from other democratic nations around the world, to tackle the problem of fake news without violating citizens’ rights to Freedom of Expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The goal of the assessment of the bill was to see how other democratic nations around the world are dealing with the problem of Fake News and how Nigeria can either adopt or learn from their strategies in dealing with the problem.
Turkey ranks first on a list of countries where people complain about completely made up stories according to the 2019 Routers Digital News report, launched two ‘Fact-checking’ Initiatives ‘Gunun Yalanlari’ (Lies of the day) and ‘fact – checking Turkey’ by the authorities to ensure that news contents are appropriately verified and monitors news related to Turkey.
Sweden on the other hand has resorted to informing and educating its citizens on methods used to spread and amplify disinformation with the aid of pamphlets containing guidelines on dealing with false information, rather than passing legislation to counter it.
India is not left out in the quest to fight false information following an appeal by the authorities, WhatsApp which has more than 200m users in India, reduced the number of times a user can forward a message at a time to five.
The United Kingdom in her efforts to stem the wide spread of false statements, false declarations, and harmful contents, the government set up a rapid response unit within the cabinet office to work with social media firms to remove fake news and harmful contents from their platforms. The unit works to knock down misinformation and disinformation which undermines genuine information and expert information very quickly.
The government also re-launched a campaign called “don’t Feed the Beast”, urging the public to think carefully about what they share online, so as to stop false rumors from spreading and taking hold.
The group therefore urged the Nigerian Senate to emulate what these countries are doing in public awareness campaigns, rebuttal unit to counter false publications, working alongside social media platforms to help in flagging down false publications as well as civil society group advocacy/campaigns against fake news as employing a democratic and civilized approach ensures that the fundamental Human Rights of citizens are safeguarded, and guaranteed.
“Nigeria should learn and adopt these democratic and civilized approaches of fighting the problem of fake news rather than resorting to the anti-democratic approach to enact tyrannical and draconian laws that will further shrink our civic spaces”.