The Executive Secretary of the National Media Commission (NMC), George Sarpong, has called for the regulation of social media to help curb misinformation and disinformation in the country.
He made this known at a public forum, organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), under the theme, “Misinformation, Peace and Democratic Consolidation in Ghana,” yesterday in Accra.
According to Mr. Sarpong, regulations define the boundaries of operation and, therefore, guarantee the freedom to operate within the rules, and that it was not true that regulation limits free expression.
The idea that regulating the internet and social media was not democratic was refuted by Mr. Sarpong, saying, “In the United State, law enforcement relies on Section 251 of the Patriot Act to address issues of online compurgation.”
The use of fact-checking as a means of combating difficulties with misinformation and disinformation, he continued, was not the greatest, because the harm would have already been done.
He stated that prior to their inception, print and broadcast platforms, for example, experienced the same problem with the amount of content they could hold, but that was no longer the case.
“When we talk about the internet, it is true that it is bad, but essentially these are just interconnected servers and systems that speak across jurisdictions. So, when we create the impression that this is something that is beyond everybody’s control, again I am saying it is not true,” Mr. Sarpong added.
The Chairperson of the forum, the Omanhene of Asante Asokore and Board Member, National Peace Council, Prof Nana S.K.B Asante, in his opening remarks, said it was an undeniable fact that the constitutional rule of the country faced a serious threat, due to the internet and social media.
He, therefore, called on the relevant stakeholders to a build consensus in order to help address the issue.
As a panelist at the forum, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale North, Mr. Alhassan Sayibi Suhiyini, noted that the issue of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news was not solely due to the internet or social media, but rather the traditional media, which had sacrificed accuracy for speed, resulting in fallen standard.
He emphasised the importance of making investments in the traditional media, whether they are state-run or privately owned, by training their staff and providing them with adequate compensation to encourage them to work hard.
The discussion was sponsored by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom (UK). Around 100 people attended, including representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), human rights advocates, diplomats, UN agencies, and the media.
The forum’s goal was to discuss the growing problem of disinformation and how it affects the stability and democratic government of the nation while also formulating concrete suggestions for how the nation should enhance the situation of its citizens’ human rights.