Social Media In The Eye Of The Storm

In the aftermath of the EndSARS campaign, the media in general and the social media in particular, came under intense searchlight leading, in the process, to analysis about their intentions and relevance in the national scheme of things. Debatably, the social media is beginning to be seen as irritants even by democrats. Others, too, see the media, as taking their own space in the environment where freedom of speech ought to reign.

During those few weeks of seeming stand-off between the youth segment of the population and the government, the social media came out forcefully to claim its perceived rightful place in the people’s consciousness as they used the various platforms there are in the internet to put across alternative view points by the youth in a manner that drew attention of not just the government but also non state actors who are undeniably stakeholders in the Nigerian project.

Some applauded the social media, especially how it was deployed by the young men and women, as a new awakening, a positive development that is likely to augur well for the nation if the youths decide and are able to sustain the tempo. That use of the media is seen as a wakeup call that may cause a change in policy formulation and implementation as they affect the youth; political calculations and the future role the youths may decide to play in election related issues. Or, even more importantly, upturn the status quo and bring about a reinforcement of policies that address the anxieties of the youth. If truth be told, social media are a creation of the youth and they intend to use them.

Dangers Of Fake News

However, officialdom is understandably uncomfortable about the online, real time transmission of events as they unfold. The reason is couched in the usual parlance that tilts towards national security. How the social media was deployed was seen as an attempt to bring down the structures that hold the country together as well as instigate violence. Already, three media houses are under the hammer for using information from the social media, allegedly, unprofessionally.

But the majority of the populace see what is going on in the media generally as a positive development that will help in educating the people and bringing them up to speed as far as governance and its impact are concerned.

The focus of this newspaper is on the use and or abuse of the social media. It deserves to be emphasised that every facility, including the social media, have their good and the bad sides. That makes it pertinent that the government and the governed must exercise restraint in the assessment of the roles these platforms are capable of playing in national development.

Social media, as opposed to the conventional media, is almost in a hurry to inform their audience. And because they are reporting news as it breaks, they may not have the time to analyse the implication of reporting the event and dishing it out in its raw form. That is the nature of that aspect of their functions as media practitioners. The conventional media, by their very nature, have all the luxury of time to carry out even self-censorship in the management of news and information.

In our opinion, what the social media is doing, live-streaming news events, is not a crime. It is also, in our view, not such that suggests professional irresponsibility. Obviously, there have been concerns about untoward inclinations in the media. The worries about fake news and outright lies abound. Those, where they occur, deserve to be condemned. It is, without doubt, reprehensible for any medium to descend to those levels for whatever reasons. Having said this, we also note that there are laws in the nation’s statute books to take care of those kinds of misdemeanour where and when they occur.

The Social media, like every other form of media, do not make news. They report news as dished out by newsmakers. Again, the laws against slander, libel and sedition are still very much available to the aggrieved. If a medium violates the rules, the laws should apply to that particular medium and not to the media as a whole. Any plan to regulate the social media or any media for that matter is, in our considered opinion, unacceptable because it is unconstitutional and will tantamount to shutting the door of free speech.

What we think is going on in the social media in Nigeria is not different from what is happening elsewhere. As a matter of fact, in some climes, it is encouraged as a fulfilment of the age long roles of the media which are to inform, educate and entertain. The immediacy of social media is, in our opinion, a welcome flavour. Much as we frown at any abuse of the powers of the media by anyone, it is also not advisable to deny the people one of the avenues of following the trend of events in the public space.



Read the Source post on Leadership Newspaper.