Fake News On Social Media Has Become A Cancer, Says Minister Of Information

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed says fake news on social media, if not tackled, can cause great damage to the world. 

 “The mix of fake news using social media platforms has now become a cancer that if the world does not take time, it will destroy the world,” the minister said during an interview on Channels Television’s News Night which aired on Monday.

While noting that he has always been at the forefront of the fight against fake news, the minister reiterated his stance that “the next war will be caused by fake news,” calling for collaboration among stakeholders to tackle the menace.

“If we do not take the issue of fake news, social media seriously, it will be at our own peril,” the 69-year-old old noted.

Stifling Media? 

He, however, dismissed fears that the Federal Government may want to stifle the media via the regulation of social media, explaining that stakeholders have always been carried along in the country’s quest to curb fake news.

“The government is setting up a high-powered committee to see how we can make social media more responsible,” he said. “And I want to say this clearly, nobody has the intention of stifling the media.”

He accused social media platforms of double standards especially during the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests that rocked the West African nation in October 2020.

“It was fake news. Unfortunately, the major players like Twitter and co were supporting this,” he stated.

The Minister’s comment comes on the heels of a kidnap that took place in a secondary school in Kagara, Niger State that led to the abduction of scores of students by gunmen.

An ‘Immediate Concern’

Despite fears that the Federal Government might be forced to pay a ransom to ensure the students are freed, the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says there is no plan to give money in exchange for the kidnapped students.

“The immediate concern of the Federal Government is to get those students released unharmed,” the minister added. “In doing so, we are going to employ kinetic and non-kinetic. But non-kinetic does not necessarily mean amnesty or ransom. But we would not outrightly say we would not do this or that. But one thing I know the government will not do is pay ransom.”

According to him, if the government pays a ransom to free the abducted students, it would become a “bad precedent” and people will turn the kidnapping of schoolchildren into a business.

‘There Must Be Gatekeepers’: Gov Akeredolu Defends Calls For Social Media Regulation

 

Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu has defended calls for the regulation of social media and is advocating the use of gatekeepers to sieve content before they are published

“There must be gatekeepers. Yes, you want to publish any news you like, there must be gatekeepers using technology that will be able to at least, sieve what is right and what is wrong,” the governor said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday while explaining part of the communique issued by the South-West Governors’ Forum after a meeting held last week.

READ ALSO: SERAP Threatens To Sue Northern Governors, NASS Over Social Media Bill

The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum blamed fake news for the destruction of properties by hoodlums in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests. He explained that no government would allow fake news to take over the cyberspace.

A file photo of cars burnt by hoodlums during the violence in Lagos on October 21, 2020.

 

“When the hoodlums took over, a lot of fake news were fed to the public. People were reacting to it,” the former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, 64, added. “False news were fed to the public, they reacted to it. It led to the destruction of properties, Lagos, Akure, everywhere.”

READ ALSO: [‘The Timing Is Suspicious’:] NBA President Faults Moves To Regulate Social Media

According to him, “if we cannot be disciplined enough to be able to know that we don’t churn out news that can cause a lot of damage in the society, then the government itself must be proactive enough to find a way to control it.”

While explaining that the planned restrictions on social media would not affect personal conversations, the governor who recently secured a second term in office, said social media is already regulated in places like China and Russia.

READ ALSO: #EndSARS Protesters Used Social Media To Escalate Tensions, Monguno Claims

“They won’t restrict my personal conversations, they would not restrict what I am saying to my friends but if I want to take out news and say that thousands have been killed in Lekki Toll Gate for instance, then before it comes out, I must have evidence of people who died on the ground,” Akeredolu noted.

“Show me and if it is not there, I will say to you cannot use my band to propagate such news item. That is what we are saying.”

 

 

Three Arrested In Kaduna For Allegedly Spreading Fake News Of Impending Attack

A map showing Kaduna, a state in Nigeria's North-Central region.

 

Troops of Operation Safe Heaven have arrested three persons for attempting to use fake news to incite violence in Takau community of Jemaa Local Government Area located in the Southern part of Kaduna State.

Confirming the incident, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security, Samuel Aruwan, told reporters on Tuesday that the suspects were arrested in Sabon Kaura village of Zangon Kataf local government by military intelligence and troops attached to the Operation Safe Haven.

The male teenage suspects according to the security authorities used their phones to call residents of Ungwan Kwaki village in Jema’a local government threatening them of their plan to attack the community and other villages in Southern Kaduna.

According to residents of the communities, they were alarmed by the news which consequently forced many to flee from their homes out of fear.

Read Also: Activist Sues Sam Adeyemi, Burna Boy, 48 Others Over Role In #EndSARS Protests

Also narrating the incident, the head of Takau community, Ibrahim Audu, told Channels Television that following the information, women and children were immediately evacuated from the communities.

The Commissioner for Internal Security explained that as soon as the information reached the security personnel, they tracked the phone the suspects used in calling residents, and subsequently, arrested Joel Luka, Emmanuel Daniel and Sylvester Daniel who had claimed to be Fulani from Dangoma coming for an attack.

Aruwan added that the suspects who are under-18 have confessed to the crime and will be handed over to the appropriate authorities.

According to him, the troops will remain on the ground, based on the approval of the military authorities in order to ensure full restoration of peace and security in the southern Kaduna general area.

#EndSARS Protests Brought Home the Dangers Of Fake News – Minister Of Youths, Sports

Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare

 

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, says during the #EndSARS protests held across the country, fake news was widely spread through social media.

The Minister, who disclosed this on Monday, during an interview on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said the question of fake news is bothersome not only in Nigeria but every part of the world.

“The protests brought home the dangers of fake news. Several months back, Nobel Laureate Winner, Professor Wole Soyinka said fake news is like the bomb that can destroy the world and it is sure that the bomb will come from Nigeria.

“What happened during the protests has been reviewed to a certain extent. We have seen debunking of several of the stories of deaths that came up.

“Everyone is worried about the negative impacts of fake news,” he said.

The Minister added that every country is dealing with fake news and in Nigeria, the National Assembly will do justice to the proposed regulation of social media to guard against the spread of fake news.

“The talk around regulation, of course, we have a National Assembly, it will have to go through the normal process. We have a constitution, they will have to make sure it does not violate certain provisions of the constitution that has to do with freedom of expression.

“Where you have fake news destroying lives, the government has a responsibility to make sure that there is a level of control. It is not censorship but some level of control,” the minister stated.

Dare added that the Federal Government had the option of shutting down the social media space during the #EndSARS protests but chose not to tread the path.

“Everyone one of us benefits from the internet. The fact that our youths used it to mobilise is commendable.

“But the talk about the regulation of social media has been around for a while. We’ve seen other countries taking practical steps in that direction, this country has not done that.

“Even during the #EndSARS protests, the country had an option. The country never went for that final option,” he added.

The Minister said the fact the Federal Government did not shut down cyberspace enabled people to connect themselves through their social media platforms.

According to him, this shows a government that is committed to the rights of freedom and association of every citizen of this country.

Pogba To Take Legal Action After ‘Fake News’ France Retirement Rumours

File photo: Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba gives a press conference after a gala football match between All Star France and Guinea at the Vallee du Cher Stadium in Tours, central France, on December 29, 2019, as part of the “48h for Guinea” charity event. GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP.

 

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba said on Monday he will be “taking legal action” after reports claimed he had retired from international duty in protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments about radical Islam.

According to reports in the Middle East picked up by British tabloid The Sun, World Cup winner Pogba wanted to end his international career after Macron vowed to take the fight to Islamic radicals after the October 16 beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty.

“I am appalled, angry, shocked and frustrated some ‘media’ sources use me to make total fake headlines in the sensible subject of French current events and adding my religion and the French National Team to the pot,” Pogba posted on Instagram.

“I am taking legal action against the publishers and spreaders of these 100% Fake News,” he added.

Paty had shown cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed to pupils in a class discussion on free speech in a school near Paris.

Macron’s comments triggered protests in Muslim-majority countries at the weekend, with people burning pictures of Macron in Syria and setting fire to French flags in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Pogba won the World Cup in Russia in 2018, with Les Bleus’ next fixture a friendly with Finland on November 11 ahead of Nations League meetings with Portugal and Sweden.

United’s next match is Wednesday’s Champions League group game against RB Leipzig at Old Trafford.

AFP

Facebook Removes Trump Post Over ‘False’ Virus Claims

US President Donald Trump waves upon arrival to Morristown Municipal Airport, New Jersey on July 24, 2020. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

 

 

Facebook said Wednesday it had removed a post from the page of US President Donald Trump over what it called “harmful COVID misinformation.”

The post was a video clip from a Fox News interview in which Trump contended that children are “almost immune” from the deadly virus.

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

Google Adds Fact-Checking To Images In Bid To Combat Fake News

Google is one of the largest tech companies in the world. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Google said Monday it was adding fact-check labels to images as part of its efforts to stem visually misleading information.

The new labels will be attached to the underlying web pages of photos and videos which appear in a Google search, the tech giant said.

Google showed how the fact-check system works with an illustration of a widely circulated set of images which showed — falsely —  sharks were swimming in the streets of Houston after a 2017 hurricane.

“Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls — especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image,” said Google product manager Harris Cohen.

“Starting today, we are surfacing fact check information in Google Images globally to help people navigate these issues and make more informed judgments about what they see on the web.”

The new labels will be based on the ClaimReview database established by independent fact-checkers.

“Now, when you search on Google Images, you may see a ‘Fact Check’ label under the thumbnail image results,” Cohen said.

“When you tap one of these results to view the image in a larger format, you’ll see a summary of the fact check that appears on the underlying web page. These labels may appear both for fact check articles about specific images and for fact check articles that include an image in the story.”

Google said the new labels won’t affect search rankings: “Our systems are designed to surface the most relevant, reliable information available, including from sources that provide fact checks,” Cohen said.

 

AFP

Amaechi Calls For Regulation Of Nigeria’s Social Media Space

 

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has called for the regulation of Nigeria’s social media space in order to curb the spread of fake news.

In an exclusive interview with Channels Television on Monday, Mr Amaechi explained that the rumoured attack on him at the Rigasa train station in Kaduna, only shows that there are people who deliberately want to bring down the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This so-called social media, the earlier they start regulating it, the better.

“We either start regulating this or there are people who deliberately want to bring down the government, and I don’t know what they want to achieve by that, is it that the government can’t protect its own minister?” he asked.

READ ALSO: My Convoy Was Never Attacked By Bandits In Kaduna, Says Amaechi

Mr Amaechi explained that there was no incident of shooting or kidnapping of him or anyone at the train station.

“Most of these stories we hear are not true, they had earlier on said there was an attack on passengers on the same Rigasa, I had to tell NRC to make a rejoinder because there was none.”

Let’s Find A Way To Tackle Hate Speech, Fake News – Lawan

 

President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan has said it is important to come to an understanding of the best approach in finding a way to address the challenge of hate speech and fake news.

According to him, as a democratic nation, where dialogue is characterized by ceaseless conflict, there can be no progress.

Lawan who was speaking during a town hall forum on Media, Regulation, Society and Governance in Abuja on Monday, asked if the country should rely on existing laws to deal with supposed infractions such as fake news and hate speech, or if there are even enough laws to deal with them.

“We are a democratic nation where dialogue, conversation, disagreement and agreement are central to how we resolve our issues.

“Where do we go from here as a nation, can we really say we have enough laws to deal with infractions and if so, are we implementing them enough? He asked.

READ ALSO: Okada Ban: Lagos Deploys 65 Buses Across Major Routes

He called on stakeholders to be dispassionate in addressing the issues, stating that the conclusion drawn from the town hall meeting will help the National Assembly and the Federal Government in addressing the challenges.

“As stakeholders in civil society, we should be dispassionate and be able to examine all matters critically.

“Emotions and sentiments hardly help in a gathering like this one, if our minds are open to all lines of thought; we’ll then develop a sense of perspective.

“Our conclusions will be subsequently helpful to the National Assembly and the government at large,” he added.

Google Bans Political Ads In Singapore

 

 In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers' screens.
In this file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.

 

Google has banned political ads in Singapore ahead of elections, an opposition party said Wednesday, sparking accusations the tech giant was “kowtowing” to the tightly-controlled city’s government.

The ban was imposed under controversial new rules aimed at fighting disinformation in the city-state, which critics fear could be used to stifle dissent.

General elections are widely expected within months and weak opposition parties are relying on social media to reach voters in a country where the mainstream media typically backs the long-ruling government.

But the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), a key opposition group, said that Google had refused their request to buy ads on the site.

Google had cited the new regulations, which prohibit adverts seeking to influence public opinion, according to correspondence between the US firm and the party posted on the SDP website by chairman Paul Tambyah.

“We have been highly dependent on social media and the internet to get our message across to the people of Singapore,” Tambyah said in a letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

“This new policy is alarming and very disappointing.”

Ted Osius, Google’s vice president for government affairs and public policy, replied that banning political ads “was not an easy decision to make”, according to a copy of his letter posted by the party.

Google, which has its regional headquarters in Singapore, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tambyah’s party does not currently hold any seats in parliament, and the city’s fractious opposition groups are not seen as a threat to the long-ruling People’s Action Party.

Brad Bowyer, a member of another opposition group, the Progress Singapore Party, told AFP it was “very disheartening when the national media is controlled and now social media is kowtowing”.

Bowyer had to put up a correction by one of his Facebook posts last week after authorities ordered him to under the new law.

At the weekend, Facebook posted a correction by a post in Singapore for the first time after receiving an official request.

 

AFP

China Bans ‘Fake News’ Created With AI

A man uses his mobile phone to take a picture after snow fell in Beijing on November 30, 2019. WANG ZHAO / AFP

 

 

China has issued new rules banning online video and audio providers from using artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality technologies to produce “fake news.” 

The  regulation published Friday by China’s cyberspace authority said that both providers and users of online video news and audio services are “not allowed” to use new technologies such as deep learning and virtual reality to create, distribute and broadcast “fake news.”

“Fake news” has been generalised to mean anything from a mistake to a parody or a deliberate misinterpretation of facts.

The rules come into effect on January 1, 2020.

Failure to follow them could be considered a criminal offence, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said, without offering details on punishments.

The rules require videos and audio tracks produced using AI or virtual reality technologies to carry clear labels warning users.

The regulations particularly stressed the dangers of “deepfakes,” or technology that manipulates videos to appear genuine but which depict events or speech that never happened.

Deepfake technologies could “disrupt social order and violate people’s interests, creating political risks and bringing a negative impact on national security and social stability,” the cyberspace authority warned.

Concerns over deepfakes have grown since the 2016 US election campaign which saw wide use of online disinformation, according to US investigations.

China’s top legislative body said earlier this year it was considering making deepfake technology illegal.

A Chinese face-swapping app Zao, which allows users to convincingly superimpose their own likeness over characters in movies or TV shows, led to a heated debate on the abuses of deepfake technologies in September.

Social Media Regulation: FG Not Attempting To Gag The Media – Lai Mohammed

 

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has said that the recent move by the Federal Government to regulate the social media space from fake news and hate speech is not aimed at gagging the media.

Mr Mohammed made this known when he received the National Executives of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) led by its President, Christopher Isiguzo on a courtesy visit in Abuja.

He said that if the NUJ and other media professional bodies, they should reach out and engages the government, instead of rushing to the media to condemn the move to protect the integrity of the media.

“As a professional body for journalists, the NUJ has its code of ethics for journalists, and this guides their operation. To the best of my knowledge, the trained, professional journalists cannot afford to engage in fake news, because this will kill public trust in the media. They also cannot afford to engage in hate speech, because of its implication for national peace and unity. After all, there has to be a country before you can even practice your profession.

“When we announced the plan to regulate the social media, we said clearly that the regulation is not an attempt to gag the media or muzzle free speech; we said journalists have nothing to fear.”

READ ALSO: Hate Speech Bill: Propose Death Penalty For Corrupt Politicians, Falana Tells NASS

Mr Mohammed urged media practitioners to lead in sanitizing the social media space because they will be the first victim when the people lose confidence in the media due to the reckless actions of non-journalists and purveyors of fake news and hate speech.

“We will not unilaterally impose measures aimed at injecting sanity into the social media space. We will work with stakeholders, including the NUJ, Guild of Editors, Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, the Civil Society, Online Publishers, Bloggers, etc.

“Already, we have dispatched letters to these stakeholders. A government that has the intention of gagging the media won’t engage stakeholders in dialogue on the way forward.”

He explained that the Federal Government has taken the initiative to adopt the use of technology, legislation and regulatory bodies, but it is up to the stakeholders to decide the best option.

“But we have also taken the initiative to meet, very soon, with the platform owners, like Facebook, Whatsapp, Google, Twitter and Instagram, among others, to engage them on the way forward.

“But I must say that rushing to reject the plan without bothering to understand what it entails is not helpful, and constitutes panic reaction.”

Mr Mohammed stated that the Federal Government will still go ahead with the plan to stop purveyors of fake news and hate speeches. Adding that, no responsible government will allow such acts to reign freely.