Social Media for Good Governance, by Femi Adesina  

Definition and Background

Social Media refers to all websites and applications that give users the ability to create and share content. That’s why it is called ‘Social’. Unlike traditional media which only allows a select group of people, ‘gatekeepers’, to post.

• I used to be a newspaper editor, and it was my job to decide what type of content is published in the paper, and when. The same applies to television and radio. If you want to contribute to any of the traditional media, you have to send your content to them and hope they will feature it.

• But with social media, you can sign up on any platform, create and post your content, and other people will engage with it as they deem fit. Nobody needs the permission of any editors or gatekeepers, and the communication can flow from any user to any other user.

• The most popular Social Media platforms in Nigeria are WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Many young people also use platforms like SnapChat and Tiktok.

• Social Media, like all other media, is itself a neutral platform, that can be put to good or bad use.

• It is human beings who decide what they want to use it for, to build up or to tear down, to unite or to divide, to progress or to retrogress. The same WhatsApp that people use for business promotion and client engagement is what others use to spread fake news. The same Facebook that people use to reconnect with their friends from long ago, is what election manipulators use to try to negatively influence the outcome of elections.

Negative Uses of Social Media

1. Fake News and Hate Speech: We have seen many examples of these in recent times:

• Jubril from Sudan

• Coronavirus Fake News – peddling fake cures, people saying the Virus does not exist, etc.

• The Ethnicisation of Security in Nigeria

2. Destructive Criticism: Not all criticism is good or useful. Some of it is misinformed and and meant to destroy.

Positive Use of Social Media

1. We must be sensible and responsible in our usage of social media. We have a responsibility to do this. Be aware of the laws that guide social media usage, so that you do not run foul of them. For example, the Cybercrime Act of 2015 criminalises cyber-threats, cyber-terrorism, online impersonation, cyberstalking, and distribution of racist or xenophobic material. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse; also saying ‘I was only kidding’ is not an excuse.

2. You can use Social Media to hold government to account, but you have to be factual and non-destructive. Avoid gratuitous insults.

3. Social Media is useful for drawing the attention of Government to things that require their intervention. But it must be factual information, and must be directed to the right channels.

4. For young people, there’s a lot of Self Development that can be done on the Internet. You can learn an infinite amount of skills and courses on the Internet. We can all play our part in advancing good governance in Nigeria by developing our skills and talents to the best of our abilities.

5. Abia State is known around Nigeria and beyond as a bastion of innovation and creativity. Your shoes and clothes are world-famous, among other things. Social Media can be a tool for learning how to improve the quality of your products, also for finding new markets and customers.

Government and Social Media

• For Government, Social Media should be seen as a credible feedback tool, where the citizenry can comment and contribute to governance. But you have to take the effort to sieve through the feedback, not all of it will be constructive or useful.

• Government agencies should endeavour to be officially active on Social Media platforms, and regularly share updates on their activities.

• Events like this Social Media Converge, with His Excellency the Governor in attendance, should be encouraged, as a way of bringing various stakeholders together, to discuss how to maximise the advantages and minimise the downsides of Social Media.

Social Media for Good Governance is a collection of talking points for a discourse at the Social Media Converge in Umuahia today.

It was delivered by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity.

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