The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has described social media as a nightmare to image makers because of its disinformation through fake and distorted news.
The minister who stated this on Monday in Lagos at the opening of the 4Commonwealth Public Relations Congress, noted that image makers in both public and private sectors were victims of the trend.
He, therefore, charged PR practitioners to devise innovative ways to ensure a better, charged-way communication network between their employer and the people.
The event organised by the Management School, London and the Business Education Examinations Council, has the theme “Strategic Management of Reputation Risk in an Interdependent World.’’
“Today, anyone with access to a smart phone can put out any information, whether accurate or not, that could go viral in minutes.
“No fact-checking, no accuracy, no fairness, no rules. They just spread whatever information catches their fancy, and they have their own public that believes them.” he said.
The minister however said that the trend is global, affecting international and local affairs including the recent U.S. elections.
“To understand the seriousness of this, there is an on-going debate in the U.S. over the role that disinformation played in the recent presidential election.
“Some even accused the social networking site, Facebook, of helping to swing the election in favour of Mr Donald Trump, through the fake and distorted news spread by websites belonging to those who call themselves Alt-Right, or Alternative Right.
“Of course Facebook has denied that. But then Facebook and Google have taken concrete action to check this by seeking to cut off the live wire to these fake news websites,” he said.
According to published reports, Google said it will prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its advertising network, while Facebook said its ban on deceptive and misleading content also applies to fake news.
The minister said, locally, the trend has also made the job of government image makers a task so daunting that it is denying them of sleep.
“Government image makers now sleep with one eye opened, that’s if we sleep at all, because while we are sleeping, the purveyors of distorted and fake news are busy cooking their stuff.
“I cannot count the number of times that I have been removed from the Information and Culture portfolio on the social media in the past year, or that ministers have swapped portfolios,’’ he said.
He minister seized the opportunity to refute the fake report that President Muhammadu Buhari gave 500 million dollar to Hilary Clinton during the U.S. Electioneering Campaign.
“Even when the Presidency has denied this outrageous concoction, the so-called analysts and experts have continued to comment on it as if it is true,’’ he said.
In tackling the challenge, the minister said that in addition to radio, television, newspapers and the new media, his ministry revived an age-long practice of Town Hall Meeting to engage people directly and get their feedback on topical issues.
Mr Mike Okereke, foremost public relations practitioners in a welcome address, said the summit afforded the them (PR practitioners) from the Commonwealth to exchange ideas on best practices.
He urged participants to adopt positive attitude in the discharge of their duties.
Also speaking, the President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Dr Rotimi Oladele, underscored the need for practitioners to build effective policy and implementation of information management.