The Nigerian government has asked Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent pro-Biafra separatist group (IPOB) from using their platforms. The government said members of the group use these platforms to incite violence and instigate ethnic hatred in the country.
Speaking on Tuesday at a meeting with a team from Facebook in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said since IPOB had been proscribed and classified as a terrorist organisation by the government, Facebook has no justification for yielding its platform to the organisation.
In 2017, the Nigerian government declared the group a “terrorist organisation” and later backed the decision with a court ruling.
“I have convened this meeting to enable us to discuss the increasing use of Facebook by separatists and anarchists, especially those of them based outside the country, to instigate violence and ethnic hatred in Nigeria,” Mr Mohammed said.
“For whatever reason, they seem to have now chosen Facebook as their platform of choice. And their tools include disinformation, incendiary statements and hate speech. They use Facebook broadcasts to reach their followers, who are in the thousands. They tag those opposed to their violent ways as ‘saboteurs’ who must be attacked, maimed, and killed. They use both English and their local language as it suits them,” he said.
He argued that the actions of the members of the proscribed group on social media have real-life implications.
“By purveying hate and inciting violence, people are getting killed while the private and public property is being attacked and destroyed. Security agencies and other symbols of government are their choice targets,” he said.
The minister said despite the complaints to Facebook about the activities of IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), nothing has been done by the company to curtail the group’s excesses on the social media platform.
“Our social media people have been monitoring these separatists, anarchists and purveyors of hate, and have been reporting their atrocious actions to Facebook, but all they get are default responses that their complaints have been received and are being looked into,” he said.
“Most often than not, nothing is done about such complaints. The truth is that whatever Facebook is doing to check these people is mere tokenism and is totally ineffective.”
He also said the government would be monitoring Facebook and other platforms closely in the days ahead to ensure compliance with the demand, as it steps up the campaign for the responsible use of social media.
“We have always advocated responsible use of social media, and consistently called on all stakeholders to join us in achieving this. Some have tagged our efforts as an attempt to stifle social media,” he said.
“They are wrong because we have no intention of preventing Nigerians from using social media responsibly. All we have been advocating is a responsible use of social media,” he said.
- A Premier News report