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Nigeria must regulate social media, despite criticisms on hate speech bill- UI don Bisi Olawuyi insists

A lecturer in the Department of Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan, Dr. Bisi Olawuyi has insisted that despite the criticisms trailing the anti-hate speech bill in the National Assembly, there is still a need to regulate the social media in Nigeria.

Olawuyi said this while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the sixth edition of a public speaking competition, tagged “Superbowl”, with the theme, “The Reconstruction of a Nation and UI @70: Sustaining the Legacy, Raising the Bar”, held at the university on Saturday.

HITNG recalls that a bill, anti-hate speech bill, which seeks to regulate and punish people who make unguarded statements in the country and which has passed second reading in the National Assembly, was recently re-introduced by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.

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Eminent Nigerians including former Governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba, Senators, activists and Guild of Editors have expressed their displeasures over the proposed law.

But, Olawuyi while reacting maintained that there is nowhere in the world where freedom is absolute, insisting that the social media should be regulated in order to caution individual excesses of the opportunity.
He said, “I just came back from a training workshop in Moronvia, a training on investigative journalism, but there is nowhere in the world where freedom is absolute.

I teach media, in the age of social media, whoever gets to the media first owns the story either positive or negative. If somebody decides to malign me and go on social media that Bisi did this, how many people will I tell that it is not true the story goes.
“So, there is a need for people to take responsibility for whatever they do. Are we together. But, how do we balance the bill in a manner that it does not suppress those rights? I will give an example. There is a lot of misinformation about China.

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China has We Chart like WhatsApp, what China does is that you are free to post misinformation or hate speech but it is not the person who posts it that will be liable but, it is the admin. So when you set up a group and then you have administrator, the onus is on the administrator to ensure that the purpose of that We Chart group is strictly adhered to.

“For instance, this is WhatsApp group for old students association, we are going to be posting related matters only, no religious things. But, what happened? People will begin to deviate. So, we need responsibility, people need to take responsibility for whatever they do. So if I know that something is at stake, do you think I am going to post it?

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When somebody sends you a message and then you re-post, you have taken responsibility of that thing, you belief in that message that is why you re-posted it. So, are we together? I think it should be regulated. But, we need to look at the nature of that regulation, so that it does not undermine the freedom of expression”.
Olawuyi, who organized the contest while speaking further maintained that the oratory contest which began in 2007 was last held in 2012, as he remarked that the sixth was held in order to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the institution.

“We started Superbowl in 2017 and the reason why it came up was because I said that there was a need to raise the profile of public speaking contest among young people in Nigeria and to address salient national issues. Before then, there were many public speaking contests at the University of Ibadan, I just felt that there is a need to raise another contest that will address salient national issues in Nigeria.

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Superbowl take a lot of money. By the time I organised the fifth edition in 2012, I felt that I cannot cope with the enormous resources if required. That was why for seven years, we cannot do it. And because of the embarrassment I receive from students who say, uncle Bisi, what about the Super Bowl and I said that I will take the bull by the horns regardless of what it is going to take. After seven years, we need to come out bigger and better after seven years”.

HITNG reports that the contest had Nwodo Jesse as the winner, while David Olanema and Bolaji Olayide emerged as first and second runner up.

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