Visiting Journalism Instructor at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, Adamawa State, Ibanga Isine, has advised the Nigeria’s government to adopt the University’s Peer To Peer campaign, “I Stand For Nigeria,” to counter hate speech and fake news in the country.

Mr. Isine made the call at a workshop on Social Media Innovations and Online Reputation Management organised by the Nigerian Press Council and the African Media Network in Abuja.

In a lead paper titled, “How to Manage Hate Speech and Fake News,” the CMD instructor said Nigeria must use what he described as a “multi-pronged approach” if it must check the twin social malaise.

He encouraged the government, the media and corporate organisations in the country to endorse the campaign to counter hate speech by University’s CMD 244 (Online/Digital Reporting) Class.

According to him, the campaign is largely targeted at youth between the ages of 17 – 30 years, who are most active on social media and most vulnerable to radial and hate conversations.

“We encourage the three-tiers of government in the country to consider adopting the ‘I Stand For Nigeria,” campaign by students of the American University of Nigeria, (AUN),” he said.

“Our students are currently representing Nigeria in a Peer To Peer Facebook Global Digital Challenge aimed at countering hate and extremist comments on social media.

“Based on research by our students, religion, politics and ethnicity are the major drivers of hate and radical conversations on social media in Nigeria. To ensure unity and sustainable development of the country, there is a need for us to stand together and defend the only country we could call our own.

“That’s why our students decided to call on all Nigerians to stand up for their country irrespective of their religious, ethnic, political and ideological differences.”

Mr. Isine said hate speech and fake news are crimes against humanity and should be tackled seriously by individuals, media organisations, corporate entities and the government.

“The media has a critical role to play if we must defeat hate speech and fake news and their manifestations,” he told participants at the workshop.

According to research findings, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are the platforms with the highest prevalence of hate and radical conversations in the country.

He urged the media to adopt vigilance, strong social media presence, strict adherence to ethics, surveillance, fact-checking, and constant capacity building to combat the menace.

Isine regretted that the fallouts of hate speech and fake news impact mostly people who have no connection whatsoever with the social media and recommended that subscribers to news sources should “not just read, like and share any content until such materials have been verified to be true and in good taste.”

He called on individuals to always apply critical thinking, verify sources of news, read beyond the headlines, identify authors of posts, check newsworthiness of posts and avoid unnecessary biases when confronted with issues on the social media space.

He also advised the three tiers of government in the country to respect for the rule of law, respect for the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations, punish purveyors of hate speech and fake news.

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