The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso has called for caution on the use of social media by Nigerians, noting that, like every human creation, the innovation has its inherent dangers, which could be very toxic and perilous.
The Commissioner made the call in his address titled: ‘Social Media: Hope or Hubris’, delivered at the Social Media Hangout 4.0 in Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja on Saturday. He explained that social media is a creation of science designed to give comfort but has inadvertently become an agent of discomfort due to non-regulation and abuse.
Omotoso said, “No doubt, social media, also known as the ‘new media’, accelerates conversations in a more interactive way that makes communication more effective and worthwhile. It takes communication beyond the limitations of the traditional media, which most often delivers content but doesn’t allow readers, or as the case may be, viewers or listeners, to participate in the formation or development of the content”.
“The opportunity it affords everyone to freely share ideas and disseminate information makes social media popular among various kinds of people across the world. More so, it has created an avenue where anyone who so desires, could find friends, make business contacts, and become part of a community of people who interact and share thoughts online. Indeed, social media offers an endless opportunity to be seen and be heard without any restriction”, he asserted.
The Commissioner recalled that former Senate President David Mark expressed the need to check the negative tendencies of Social Media hinging his stance on the seeming lack of control of the platform. He compared unregulated social media to “A highway without road signs, markings, traffic lights, traffic officers and others”, saying “Chaos will be the order of the day”.
Omotoso pointed out that on many occasions, the authenticity of information posted on social media is suspect, unlike true journalism, which has no room for fake news.
He said, “On the contrary, social media affords a faceless character the platform to post devious and false information, sadly without any compelling process or law to enforce rebuttal. Social media has become a tool of blackmail. At the end of the day, the victims of such misleading information are faced with the task of fighting for their integrity”.
Noting that the views expressed by the former Senate President on the subject were misinterpreted in many quarters to be an attempt to gag Social Media, Omotoso maintained that even in the United States, TikTok is banned in 36 states for security reasons.
“The truth, however, is that many people now believe that whether we like it or not, there is a need to ensure some measure of sanity within the social media space. If there is an established mechanism in place to control traditional media, is there any reason why the same should not apply to social media? This is one of the thorny questions in our polity today”, he stated.
The Commissioner opined that the most irritating occurrence is that those responsible for disseminating wrong information on social media don’t usually consider it essential to retract the information when the story changes.
While advising that efforts should always be made by the public to authenticate news that emanates from social media, Omotoso stressed that everyone should be very discerning when it comes to using information obtained on social media.
“As good as social media is, it could be quite injurious to a careless user. Remember, a doctor operates with a knife to save lives while a murderer can also kill with a knife”, he cautioned.
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