The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that tackling hate speech and misinformation has become the responsibility of all major stakeholders, especially Parliaments around the world, as the negative consequences of the two can only be imagined.
Gbajabiamila said parliaments must find in all regulatory or legislative interventions, a balance between protecting the right to free speech and the right to life, peace and dignity. According to him, proper and legal means should be followed in countering hate speech and misinformation both off and online so as not to tamper with the rights of citizens to free expression.
Gbajabiamila spoke on yesterday on the topic,
‘Countering Misinformation and Hate Speech On and Offline Requires Stronger Regulations’, at the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament taking place in Vienna, Austria. The speaker said technology and new media had led to the democratisation of public debate in a way that, if appropriately managed, could be to the benefit of citizens and nations worldwide.
“However, at the same time, it has created the ideal circumstances for bad actors to spread misinformation, and to manipulate people in ways that threaten our societies,” he added.
Gbajabiamila said the right to free speech was not without limits as it did not include the freedom to plant wilful misinformation and that it did not excuse the actions of those who sought to use the freedom of public debate to exacerbate existing fissures in the society, “and it does not include a right to ignite social tensions, through lies and fake news in our societies, without consequence.”
Gbajabiamila cited the examples of the misinformation on the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill introduced in the House last year; the protests against COVID-19 vaccination around the world, and the problem of racism against some footballers in the UK.