A non-governmental organization, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), has cautioned against fueling ethnic-religious conflict and killings through the use of social media.
Addressing a press conference at NUJ Secretariat in Bauchi on Tuesday, Mohammed Chiroma Hassan, the programme officer of CITAD, lamented that the circulation of fake news has been behind series of violence recorded in the country.
He said, “It’s unfortunate that communication issue has been stocking the fire of violence in the country. This is the circulation of fake news, especially in the social media which in a recent report by BBC shown, has been fueling ethno-religious conflict and killings in the country.
“Amid recurring loss of lives and properties in many parts of Nigeria, another serious or rather unnoticed danger is brewing itself with a wildfire effect. This danger is nothing but circulation of fake press statements /releases that are widely circulated online. An example of this is the purported release by a non-existent group, ‘Fulani National Movement (FUNAM)’ claiming to justify reprisal killings because the cows of herders had been killed. We have researched into the so called movement and it is clear that someone with an interest in stocking the fire of violence is behind the fake association,” he said.
Chiroma Hassan stated: “Sentiment and selfish agenda have given people the momentum to become information givers while recklessness has encouraged same people to use technology for bad, yes for bad because they manufacture lies and disseminate on websites, groups and pages on Facebook. The effect of these fake updates is that when people read them, they become emotional and sometimes react violently.
“Any careful reader might have noticed various press statements on Jos crisis in circulation. They carry strange names of signatories and associations of certain people, making provocative remarks on the crisis and setting conditions. Rather calm the situation, the statement aggravates it by reinforcing the desire for vengeance.”
The programme officer noted that emerging websites such as http:247ureporters, www.bloggers.com, www.branfit.com.ng and many more, tag themselves as online newspapers whose ultimate goal is to bring collision of one ethnic or religious group against one another through uploads of violence sparking informations.
He called on the federal government to address the key drivers of hate speech in the country and commended the management and editorial board of Premium Times Newspaper for taking action against the reporter who fabricated an interview with a member of Miyetti Allah, justifying the Plateau killings as reprisal.