EDITORIAL: Democratisation of the social media space and the need for caution

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Over the last few weeks, the media space has been a washed with news of rape and murder of some of the victims. The death of Vera Omozuwa, who was raped and murdered while she went to study in a Church in Benin City touched the heart of many Nigerians. Although her rape and murder was the first in a series that the country recorded, her death inspires serious protest across the country both on the street and in the social media space.

The series of rape also gave courage to some victims to come out with their stores and expose their molesters. One was the case of a Port Harcourt base young man popularly called Yangy, who was accused by 24 ladies of raping them, although he denied any involvement in such and vowed to take legal action against the ladies.

The social media has been the catalyst for many social and political changes in various parts of the world, yet its democratisation is a potent danger to the society. In the midst of the rape allegations and conter-allegation on social media, a young man was wrongly accused of rape, in a case that was apparently mistaken identity. Within few hours that’s his phone number was released online by a lady, he got intimidating messages form unknown persons accusing him of rape. His accusers eventually apologized for their indiscretion but the damage was already done.

Today, social media platforms have created a virtual link between public officers and the public. More also, corporate organisations capitalise on social media as effective tool for Customer relations.

On the downside, these platforms have also helped to fan the embers of hate speech and misinformation especially by politicians. Just last week, Twitter placed warning in some tweets by the President of the United States, Donald Trump for spreading unsubstantiated facts and misinformation. A New York Times review of the Trump’s 139 Tweets from Sunday, May 24, to Saturday, May 30, found at least 26 contained clearly false claims, aimed at misinforming his followers on Twitter.

In Nigeria, politicians also see the social media as veritable tool to misinform the youth. IMPACT NEWS recalled that the outlaws group, Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) posted various videos of military brutality on internet with captions that the brutality was carried out by the Nigerian Army against the agitators. The damage was already done but when fact-checked, the videos were old videos of military brutality in another African country.

IMPACT NEWS holds that social media needs regulation however, such should be self-regulation. Social media handlers should be responsible in the use of these platforms. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that enlightenment in various forms is facilitated. The social media engaged the youth, therefore government has the duty to introduce social media into the academic curriculum at all level of education.

Trying to control the use of the social media would only lead to a policed state with a gag on free speech. We charge government at all level to think outside the box and adopt measures that would develop Nigerians on social media into responsible citizens rather than enact laws that are obnoxious and detrimental to the social development of the country.

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