Regulating Social Media As A Way Of Checking Hate Speech In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Regulating Social Media As A Way Of Checking Hate Speech In Nigeria


The 21st century can be described as the age of information technology. Technology runs almost all human endeavours. In recent times, Hate speeches have swerved from the use of traditional word of mouth to the use of social media. One of the major challenges of electioneering in the 21st century is that, due to the faceless nature of the internet, social media spreads propaganda, false information, and hate speeches, these go viral and are used to manipulate the population. Adopting a qualitative research method, this study examines regulating social media as a way of checking hate speech.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

The emergence of globalization has made the world a global village as proposed by Marshall McLuhan. This therefore necessitated the creation of information communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate the globalization of the world. This consequently, brought about the conception of social media platforms to further connect people all over the world via, information. Social media as a product of global revolution, and an end product of globalization has in turn, brought about social and political changes in the world. It is important to point out here that social media is not a new concept. There have been a good number of social media platforms before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. Some of these platforms include Classmates, Sixdegrees, and Ryze. Meanwhile, the 21stcentury has witnessed the evolution of new forms of social media networks powered by the internet, such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, internet service among others.

“The emergence of these new forms of social media revolutionised many aspects of human communication. Thus, social media have become a natural part of the everyday lives of people all over the world” (Ajayi & Adesote, 2015: 48). Allen (2012) and Scholz (2008) have argued that “social media applications are not new and that their origins can be traced to years earlier than 2005. They further added that Blogs were already around at the end of the 1990’s, the wiki technology was suggested by Ward Cunningham in 1994 and first released in 1995; social networking sites already existed in 1995 and Google was founded in 1999” (Cited in Fuchs, 2014:34). This implies that social media is not as new as people have been made to understand.

With the evolving of the Internet applications, came the invention of social media to further foster socialization and connectivity of individuals from one end of the world to another. However, “the use of social media has gone beyond connecting with friends and family, entertaining, or mere socializing. It was and is still being used as a tool to disseminate information that has in turn led to political changes in the world. The emergence of social media is a phenomenon that has transformed the interaction, communication and sharing of information between people throughout the world in the 21st century” (Ajayi & Adesote, 2015).

In recent times, many countries in Africa have also experienced growth in the use of Social Media in politics and this also led to an increase in hate speech due to increase availability of the internet. “Social Media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are amongst the most visited websites in Nigeria. Due to their participatory, interactive, and cost-effective nature, they have become veritable instruments for carrying out hate speech propaganda ” (Ajayi & Adesote, 2015:48).

However, regardless of the positive effects of social media, it has been observed that the social media has aided unreliable source of information, fake news as well as bad mouthing especially during election periods. Furthermore, the social media also promote hate speeches and violence which eventually affect the peace of the community.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Hate speech on social media hardly remains unnoticed. Contents involving hateful messages vary and could target anyone irrespective of their status, identity, location and so forth. Even when hate speech is not materialized into a hate-motivated crime, the damage is done – victims are being labeled, marginalized and exposed to negative stereotyping. The overall consequences of online hate can be the dehumanization of individuals or groups of individuals. The need for proper strategies to tackle hate speech on social media is unquestionable. The core focus of the thesis is to identify central problems that have contributed to the formation of the existing reality. To unravel the contributing factors, a holistic analysis of both international human rights principles regarding hate speech and the practical application of those standards is necessary.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The major aim of this study is on the regulating of social media as a way of checking hate speech in Nigeria.
The specific objectives are;

  1. To have an overview of hate speech and its effect on individuals.
  2. To determine the reasons why hate speech is rampant.
  3. To determine the major obstacles in regulating hate speech on social media.
  4. To make recommendations on the subject matter

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What are the reasons why hate speech is rampant?
  2. What are the major obstacles in regulating hate speech on social media?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This work investigates the regulation of social media as a way of checking hate speech in Nigeria. This work would be important to everybody from the Government to the General public and would serve as a literature to researchers who want take up research on social media and hate speech.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of the study is the regulation of social media as a way of checking hate speech in Nigeria. Questionnaires would be used to generate the required information needed to test the hypotheses formulated. However, in the course of this research, the following constraints were encountered thus:

Non-availability of enough resources (finance): A work of this nature is very tasking financially, money had to be spent at various stages of the research such resources which may aid proper carrying out of the study were not adequately available.

Time Factor:

The time used in carrying out the research work is relatively not enough to bring the best information out of it. However, I hope that the little that is contained in this study will go a long way in solving many greater problems.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Domestic Violence:

This is the abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the bases of race, religion, or sexual orientation

Social Media:

These are websites and applications that allow users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows;

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

This study was carried out to investigate how regulating social media could help in checkmating hate speech. The study specifically sought to identify the various reasons for the proliferation of hate speeches on social media; and the challenges encountered in regulating social media. The study adopted the qualitative or library research method, where empirical works were reviewed and employed to form the basis of the study conclusion. The study furthermore was reported in five chapters. Previous studies revealed that hate speech is a global issue and has received a global recognition.

Notwithstanding this presence, international organizations and authorities have devised modalities and standards that could help curb the spread of hate speech through the social media. Nigeria as well, have witnessed several outburst which can be termed hate speech on various social media platforms such as twitter and facebook.
Sadly, hate speech have come also from political office holders as it is used for political gains. However, whatever gain the users intend to get from inciting hate statements have not rubbed off perfectly on the nation as it has fuelled tribalism, religious bigotry, immorality and crime. It is therefore the position of this study that regulating social media is a credible step the government should take towards curbing hate speech in Nigeria.

5.2 Recommendation

Legislative Action

The legislature should enact Law Giving NCC Oversight of Social Media Content. One potential option for dealing with the issue of hate speech on social media sites is to ask the legislature to pass legislation requiring social media companies to obtain a license from the government to publish on the Internet. In exchange for this right, the legislation would mandate, that Internet publishers must operate in the public’s interest, convenience and necessity. Much like broadcast regulation, social media Web site operators would have to abide by certain content-based regulations, in particular a prohibition on hate speech, in order to maintain their license. With this legislation, the legislature would give the NCC the authority to enact rules and respond to user complaints, but not to monitor content online. Instead, users could report violations to the NCC, which would mandate action on the part of social media sites. If they refused, they may lose their license.

Any of the rules crafted by the NCC would need to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court regarding the Communications Decency Act. For example, rules prohibiting hate speech on social media Web sites would have to be narrowly drawn and precisely targeted. Specifically, any regulation offered by the legislature and enforced by the NCC must pass the threshold of strict scrutiny, which requires that government regulation be narrowly tailored using the least restrictive means available in order to meet  interest, which include those related to the public’s health, safety or welfare.

In addition, it may be beneficial for the government to be prepared to demonstrate the invasive nature of the Internet and specifically, social media sites, as a medium warranting regulation. This will be particularly essential in the face of judicial challenges to the proposed rules, which are undoubtedly likely to arise.

Criminal Laws Punishing Creators &Distributors

Rather than having the legislature give the NCC the power to oversee social media content as it does broadcast content, some scholars argue that the best approach to minimizing hate speech on these sites is to enact federal or state laws prohibiting the distribution of hate speech on social media sites. According to John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle, the government should interfere with a person’s liberty only when another individual is harmed. Although in Smith v. Collin the Supreme Court determined that a verbal remark expressing animosity toward a specific religious or ethnic group does not constitute harm compelling government intervention, legal scholars such as Alexander Tsesis believe the most viable solution to reducing discrimination is a criminal statute punishing the dissemination of hate speech on the Internet. Although criminal laws against hate speech may reduce the autonomy of some, says Tsesis, enacting these laws will augment the freedoms of persons traditionally holding less power on account of their color, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, or gender.

Tsesis offers a model criminal law against the use of hate propaganda on the Internet. It takes into account the special quality of cyberspace and the increased dangers associated with the spread of vitriol to a wide audience. Tsesis’ law holds that:

  1. Anyone using the Internet, an electromagnetic media, whether in this state or in a foreign state, to communicate or post statements calling for the discrimination, violence, persecution, or oppression of an identifiable group;
  2. Where it is substantially probable or reasonably foreseeable that the dissemination of such communications could elicit such acts; and(3) Where the communicator intends the message(s) to promote destructive behavior;
  3. Shall receive a term of imprisonment of at least three months and not exceeding three years; and
  4. In addition to the term of imprisonment, the Supreme Court may impose community service not to exceed four hundred hours.

The primary drawback to this type of criminal punishment is that it flies in the face of the First Amendment. It would be difficult to imagine a federal law being passed that sent Internet users to jail for offensive material posted online. In addition, this type of regulation is unlikely to pass the threshold of strict scrutiny, which the Supreme Court has made clear would be required for any content-based restrictions on speech.

Civil Tort Action

Instead of criminal action or even oversight on the part of the government, legals cholar Richard Delgado suggests focusing on the civil torts for harassment and emotional distress. To bring action under Delgado’s theory, language must be addressed to the plaintiff by the defendant, must intend to demean through reference to race and must be recognizable to a reasonable person as a racial insult.33 Although Delgado focuses here on race, it is easy to see how this approach could be expanded to include insults made on the basis of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. A civil tort action based on the existing framework for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)would give minorities, women and others a path for recourse when they feel that exposure to offensive content on social media sties has caused them severe emotional distress. One of the primary drawbacks of this approach stems from the fact that social media users are, at times, able to remain anonymous online.

Self -Regulation by Social Media Companies

Today, social media companies such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are responsible for creating and enforcing their own hate speech policies. The result is often an inconsistent application of rules that are in many instances far less speech-protective than national hate speech jurisprudence would mandate.

In addition, social media companies, in particular Google, which owns YouTube, has said that it would prefer not to act as an arbiter of free speech.

Filtering Software

Filtering software installed by end-users to block unwanted content is called censor ware. Much like its name suggests, this software filters out or censors undesirable Web sites. Commercial software programs such as Cyber sitter, N2H2, Netnanny, Surf watch and Wise choice are designed to restrict an individual’s ability to send or receive certain types of information, such as sexual or other obscene content. Users install them on their computers and then select users on that machine, such as children, are restricted from accessing certain Web sites. However, this software does not eliminate hate speech that appears on social media Web sites. To combat the more specific issue of hate speech online, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has developed free Hate Filter software, which blocks access to sites that advocate hatred, bigotry or violence toward groups based on their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other immutable characteristics. Once again though, this software does nothing to eliminate hate speech that appears on innocuous sites.

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