Good afternoon gentlemen, and thank you for honouring our invitation to this press conference, which doubles as a dialogue with you – as critical stakeholders – on our ongoing National Campaign Against Fake News.
2. As you are aware, the Federal Government launched the National Campaign Against Fake News in Abuja on Wednesday, July 11th, 2018. At the launch, we said the campaign is aimed at sensitizing Nigerians to the dangers posed to the peace and security, our democracy, and indeed the corporate existence of Nigeria by the phenomenon. We also said the campaign is even more urgent now, in view of the role of fake news in aggravating the various crises in the country as well as the need to check this phenomenon ahead of the 2019 elections.
3. As part of the modality for the campaign, we said we will use all the information dissemination tools at our disposal, work with both the traditional and social media, as well as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to get the word out there on the need for all to shun fake news and to do everything possible to stem its tide.
4. Since the launch, you – the online publishers and social media influencers – are the first stakeholders we are meeting as a group. It is just as well, because you are at the epicentre of the fake news phenomenon. Yes, fake news is not limited to the social media, and it is not new. What is new, however, is the way and manner it is spread.
And the social media is the catalyst for that spread. Why? Because all you need to make any news go viral these days is a phone and access to the Internet! That’s a free ticket to any of the social media platforms.
5. Therefore, we are here today to dialogue with you, as critical stakeholders. Your credibility, and indeed your source of livelihood, is at stake. If the society loses confidence in the media, especially social media, because of fake news, you will be the worst hit. And we are very close to that point now. Today, nobody knows what to believe anymore. You read something online, and within a few hours, it is denied. The fake news epidemic is spreading fast.
6. This is where you come in: You must not lend your various platforms to the spread of fake news. Yes, it offers instant gratification. But it doesn’t last. Once your platform is identified as a source of fake news, your credibility is gone. And once you lose your credibility as a news channel, nothing is left.
7. The traditional media has signed on to this campaign. The Nation, Vanguard and Leadership newspapers are co sponsoring the campaign. The Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) are also on board.
8. I am therefore calling on you today to join us in this campaign. A starting point is for you to put a banner on your various platforms that says: SAY NO TO FAKE NEWS! Of course, a platform that abhors fake news will not engage in one.
9. We are also telling Nigerians to do two simple things: Before sharing that information on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp:
1) Ask how credible the source is, and
2) Don’t share any information for which you can’t vouch.
10. The war against fake news is a must-win. As a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, Nigeria cannot afford an unbridled spread of fake news. This phenomenon is exploiting our fault lines to aggravate the crises in the country. Of course, you are aware of a recent BBC report that says fake news circulating in the social media is fuelling the farmers-herders crises in Nigeria. Gory pictures from other lands are circulated freely via Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, purportedly being from the killings in Benue or Plateau States.
11. Let me repeat what I said at the launch of this campaign: The Federal Government will not use coercion or engage in censorship in other to fight the fake news epidemic. We also believe there are enough laws in our books to fight this phenomenon.
12. We are therefore appealing to you and to all Nigerians to join us in fighting this scourge. Fortunately, we are not alone in this fight. The big technology companies – Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc – are deploying resources and technology against the scourge. Nations of the world and international organizations are taking steps against fake news. Global media organizations are not left behind. Let us do our own part in tackling this scourge.
13. I thank you for your kind attention. I will now take your questions.