THE Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has outlined several positive and negative impacts and the challenges associated with social media usage by various segments in the Nigerian society, particularly the youth.

In a communiqué issued at the end of this year’s edition of Kano Social Influencers Summit, tagged “#KANSIS2021”, held in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, amongst others, from October 27-28, 2021, CITAD stated that participants, after the two-day deliberations and interactive engagements came to a conclusion that the social media in Nigeria, like in other countries, is being deployed with both positive and negative consequences.

Y.Z. Ya’u Executive Director, CITAD

The communiqué, signed by Haruna Adamu, Chairman of the Communiqué Committee, noted that from the several presentations at the Summit, many social influencers are deploying social media creatively to address various social problems in the country.

According to the communiqué, participants had pointed out that youth from across the country are positively using social media to demand accountability from duty-bearers such as the #EndSARS experience, or using social media to campaign for national unity, understanding and peace building in the country.

Apart from the use of social media in exposing corruption and promotion of transparency and accountability, social media have come to be an indispensable voice for citizens such that women and other vulnerable groups are increasingly using the social media to expose discriminatory practices to promote all-round inclusion and justice in the country.

In the frontline of negatives impacts of social media identified by participants, the communiqué said include their deployment in spreading divisive narratives which undermine national cohesion and unity.

“Many are consuming fake news, disinformation and misinformation with negative consequences to the society such as is the case with various fake news and misinformation about the COVID vaccine for incense.

“Hate speech is contributing to social tension across many divides in the county and in some cases had catalysed violence.

“Social media content is pervasive [and] makes citizens to hardly differentiate between truth and lies,” the communiqué stated, adding that gender-related harmful and negative contents are further contribution to digital marginalisation of women, thereby “making the efforts to overcome the gender digital divide doubly difficult.”

Participants at KANSIS2021.

According to CITAD, the discussions have identified a number of challenges associated with social media usage, and which needed to be addressed.

One of such challenges, the communiqué noted, is the situation in the North in which some social and cultural values combine to reduce active women participation in western education and politics. This attitude, participants noted, socially deny women access to rights and justice.

The communiqué further the challenge of the diversity of religion, culture, economic and political orientations, which it said some social media influencers exploit to divide citizens.

While pointing at the huge population of especially users of Facebook, stated to be over 129 million in Nigeria; being a big opportunity for encouraging positive social influence in terms of political consciousness, the communiqué noted that rather than drive the youth towards active political participation, Facebook or social media, have become a major challenge by making the youth being rather active only on social media.

“There is a disconnect between the numerical voting strength of youth and composition of political leadership in the country.

“Although the youth are the dominant users of the social media, they have not so far been able to turn this into a political asset for their political inclusion

“Youths are only used in politics for personal interests [of the ruling elite] rather than improve governance,” stated the communiqué, which also identified the challenge of the infiltration of alien cultures through, for instance, the film industry, as in Kannywood, which has had demeaning or destructive influence on some indigenous Hausa cultures.

Need for oversight
CITAD noted that, in the context of the positive and negative impacts as well as the challenges, participants therefore “called for a conscious self-oversight on the part of users of various social media platforms to check the excesses of fake news and other negative issues not in the interest of the nation.”

Participants, the communiqué further notes, called on “Government, organizations and citizens…to join hands together to socialize people on how to make good use of the social media” while also advocating “for direct political party primaries and electronic transmission of results after voting” which they argue, “reduces the extent of electoral fraud.”

Participants

While they urged the President to endorse these elements in the country’s electoral system, they also asked CSOs to engage and encourage the National Assembly “to review the legal framework of the electoral spending to curtail the influence of money on our elections.”

Similarly, participants advised that social influencers in the country should be identified and recognised only through their positive contributions to the society just as they challenge the youth to be proactive and innovative on politics in order to create and claim their rightful space in the governance process for positive effect.

“Youth groups across the country should set agenda for political parties with a view to involving them in systems and structure of governance.

“Digitalization of education sector helps in expanding learning opportunities such as distance learning. This practice should be supported by government in order to allow space for inclusive learning especially for women and people in remote areas

“Facebook to be engaged to commit themselves in combating and removing hate speech and fake news and particularly, disinformation from their platforms in conjunction with internal and external fact checkers,” the communiqué stated among other recommendations.

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