Why we need to strike a balance in tackling hate speech, disinformation
Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said that combating hate speech and disinformation has become the responsibility of all major stakeholders, especially parliaments around the world, as the negative consequences of both do not can only be imagined.
Gbajabiamila said parliaments must strike a balance in all regulatory or legislative interventions between protecting the right to freedom of expression and the right to life, peace and dignity.
According to him, appropriate and legal means should be followed to combat hate speech and disinformation both online and online so as not to undermine citizens’ rights to freedom of expression.
Gbajabiamila spoke on “Tackling disinformation and hate speech online and offline requires stricter regulations” on Tuesday at the Fifth Global Conference of Speakers of Parliament in Vienna, Austria .
The president said technology and new media have led to the democratization of public debate in a way that, if managed properly, could benefit citizens and nations around the world.
“However, at the same time, it has created the perfect circumstances for bad actors to spread disinformation and manipulate people in a way that threatens our societies,” he added.
“and it does not include the right to stir up social tensions, through lies and false news in our societies, without consequence.
“Those who abuse the right to freedom of expression should be duly held accountable for their actions, especially when they lead to obvious bad results. “
The speaker noted that “when individuals or entities use disinformation for their own gain but undermine constructive public policy debates, they should and should be held accountable. Indeed, when disinformation harms individuals and institutions, the perpetrators must be identified and held accountable. “
However, he noted that “this does not mean that governments should be deciding who can speak or what amounts to proper speech. However, when it is clear that the rhetoric has had negative consequences, it is up to the government to define the criminal and civil accountability processes.
“To do otherwise would be an abdication of the role of government in a free society, which is not only unacceptable, but also a dereliction of duty. Parliaments must lead by example in the fight against this scourge or we will all pay a heavy price. “
Coming to Nigeria, Gbajabiamila said that with the various cultures and religions in the country still working towards achieving a more perfect union, hate speech both offline and online could have a devastating effect in the real world very quickly. .
“Therefore, for us, combating disinformation by appropriate and legal means is not a theoretical issue but a moral and constitutional responsibility. This is a question that goes to the heart of our ability to continue to exist as a nation in peace, unity and prosperity, ”he explained.
The president warned that “we must be aware of the danger that lies in trying to prevent the worst consequences of disinformation and hate speech, as some state interventions can also go too far so as to stifle the market. ideas and to infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“Our cause is therefore the creation of legal systems, processes and protocols that allow free expression and solid debate in society; while remaining able to identify and hold to account those who seek to abuse our cherished rights and subvert our societies for their narrow interests, through the scourge of choreographed and maliciously organized disinformation off and online.
Gbajabiamila cited examples of misinformation about the infectious disease control bill introduced in the House last year; protests against the Covid-19 vaccination around the world and the problem of racism against some footballers in the UK.
Other speakers from parliaments who spoke at the session supported the idea of regulating the space for hate speech and disinformation while stressing the need to protect freedom of expression.