President Bola Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, ignited a debate on social media regulation Thursday during the presentation of a book by former Minister Babatunde Fashola.
Gbajabiamila labeled social media a “societal menace” and advocated for government intervention, citing concerns about security risks and misinformation.
Concerns over Impact and Unintended Consequences:
Gbajabiamila expressed anxiety about the potential reach and impact of social media, stating that users may not fully grasp the global audience they can reach with a single post. He warned of “great danger” to society and “unintended consequences” for individuals exposed to potentially harmful information, including threats to personal safety.
Gbajabiamila said, “The social media has become a societal menace and must be regulated. As many people do not understand that once the send button is hit, there is a potential to reach millions of people around the world which is capable of causing a great danger not just in the society but even unintended consequences to the individuals that are receiving information which may include security of life.
“As citizens become more interested in governance, it is the government’s obligation to ensure that engagement with citizens springs with shared agreement on what the truth is, what is real and what is not.”
Citizenship and the Government’s Role:
Recognizing the growing civic engagement facilitated by social media, Gbajabiamila asserted the government’s responsibility to ensure “shared agreement on what the truth is, what is real and what is not.” This statement suggests a desire for control over public discourse and how information is presented online.
Several questions remain unanswered. What specific regulations does Gbajabiamila propose? How would they be implemented without infringing on fundamental rights? How can misinformation be addressed while guaranteeing open and transparent information sharing?
Debate on Regulation vs. Freedom:
This recent statement reignites the ongoing debate between regulating social media to tackle security threats and misinformation, versus protecting freedom of expression and open information access. Finding a balance between these competing interests presents a significant challenge for the Nigerian government and requires careful consideration of potential implications before proposing any concrete regulations.
It remains to be seen if Gbajabiamila’s call for action will lead to concrete regulatory steps and, if so, how they will be shaped to address concerns effectively while upholding fundamental rights.