The claim that Desmond Elliot called for the regulation of social media in Nigeria as a result of the #EndSARS protest is misleading. The headline to the reports doesn’t match the content as there was nowhere in Mr. Elliot’s speech where he categorically said social media should be regulated in Nigeria.
The aftermath of the #EndSARS protest came with an influx of controversies, multiple streams of information, and claims. One of these is a speech by Nigerian actor and politician, Desmond Elliot.
Mr Elliot, who is representing the Surulere constituency at the Lagos House of Assembly, was a Nollywood actor who later joined politics as a state lawmaker.
At the Lagos State House of Assembly on Wednesday, 26th October 2020, the lawmaker pushed for his fellow lawmakers to pay more attention to the social media. He was reacting to activities of social media users and other citizens following some downside of the #EndSARS protests.
Tagged business of the day, the lawmakers were discussing the ‘effects and aftermath of #EndSARS protest in Lagos; destruction of monuments, public and private properties.’
Mr. Elliot’s speech centred around activities of social media influencers and other users was met with rife criticism by Nigerians who rebuked him for referring to users as ‘children’ and calling for regulation.
Some sections of the media reported Mr. Elliot’s speech in this sense. For instance, thewillnigeria.com, a news website, claimed Demond Elliot, called for the regulation of social media in Nigeria in line with the impact it had on the #EndSARS protest. The claim was presented in a news report that was headlined “Regulate Social Media- Desmond Eliot” alongside transcribed statements from Mr. Desmond’s speech.
Picture 1: Headline of the story on ThewillNigeria
Naijadiary came up with a similar headline with the lead, “A video captured the moment Nollywood actor turned politician, Desmond Elliot, called for social media regulation at the Lagos State House of Assembly.”
Nigerian social media also processed and reacted to the speech in a like manner.
Alex Weenick (@Alexweenick ) tweeted in reaction, “Dear Desmond Elliot, If you want to shut down social media like China, Also suggest that death penalty should be included for corrupt politicians like China is doing. #EndOppression #Endbadgovernance #EndSARS”
Another user @Oluchristy implied that the lawmaker even said. “There Will Be No Nigeria In Five Years If We Don’t Stop Social Media” ~ Desmond Elliot.”
Like the news headlines, tweets, comments and other posts on social media perceived Mr Elliot’s speech as a call for the regulation of social media in Nigeria. Dubawa sets out to find out if Mr. Elliot actually made this call.
DUBAWA traced the original video clip that captures the plenary session of the Lagos Assembly. A content analysis of Mr. Desmond’s speech during the plenary session revealed that he mentioned ‘social media’ twice in his 6 minutes speech.
First when he said that “We need to address certain things: Nigerian youth; the social media; the social influencers. All of these are making the narrative that we’re seeing today. Except we’re joking with ourselves, social media, yes though good has its negative impacts.”
And when he also said, “Please celebrities; please social media influencers, stop the hatred already. You have a means constitutionally to change the government; it’s called your PVC.”
DUBUWA could not trace anywhere within the speech where Mr. Elliot said something about ‘social media regulation in Nigeria’.
Furthermore, thewillnigeria.com, seems to have doctored Mr. Desmond’s speech to suit its headline: “Regulate Social Media- Desmond Elliot.” In one instance, keywords from his statements were excluded in the reports.
Picture 2: Screenshot of thewillnigeria.com reports on Mr. Desmond
Although the highlighted statement is quoted as Mr. Desmond’s words, his actual statement transcribed from the audio is different.
The actual statement from Mr. Desmond’s speech, contrary to the highlights in red, as poised by thewillingnigeria.com was “Except we’re joking with ourselves, social media, yes though good has its negative impacts.” while ThewillNigeria quoted him as saying “Except we’re joking with ourselves, social media, has its negative impacts.” omitting the phrase “yes though good.”
In his widely referenced speech, Mr. Desmond never categorically called for regulation of social media in Nigeria. The reports and concurring social media comments are misleading.