A Glance at Online Terrorism and Wrong use of Social Media
••• Written By Philip Asuquo
We were walking towards the estate’s exit. My friend was busy chattering away on how he went on vacation for three days.
“My brother, it felt okay but I didn’t like the fact that it made me forget that I am a dad of 3 kids. Vacation is good and all that but I just want to be closer to my kids these days. This is why I need to build our vacation house somewhere soon”, he mused.
“Yeah, I understand. It is good that you are planning to spend more time with your kids. They really do need it, especially your daughter. Daughters need to be close to their dads while growing up. It really helps give them a balance and self worth in some way, especially if their dad is supportive and dotes on them with love”, I surmised.
“True, my brother. My daughter is always happy when I spend some time with her and her friends just gisting. You’ll get to meet her soon. I want you to come along when I go to visit her in school”, he said.
I thought about it and resolved my schedules would be free to give my friend a morale boost as we visit his daughter soon.
We were still licking the corners of our conversation when, just few kilometers to the exit gate of the estate, we saw several men in soldiers uniforms coming in. They covered the road totally so that no one could go out.
I looked at my friend and I saw the panic in his eyes. He was a para-military official so he seemed to understand what was going on. I didn’t understand it. He looked alarmed.
I heard the leader of the troop making some call-and-response chant and the uniformed men chanted along. That’s when I noticed that some of them had left the pack and were already walking amongst us.
We had to turn away from the exit direction and walk back into the estate. I was still trying to figure out what the problem could be when I noticed that even the civilians were joining in the chant-and-response.
When we got to a bend that leads to different streets, the man in charge called for all to halt. The uniformed men halted. The civilians around halted too.
He made some more calls for the men to get their guns ready to shoot. Then he said to the civilians:
“Go in and tell everybody else that we are here”. After he said so, he asked the soldiers to open fire.
…There was a stampede…
I was still trying to figure out who the ‘soldiers’ were and why that command was given when I eventually woke up and realised again, IT WAS A DREAM. It got me thinking though.
Recently, I read in the news that journalists are being urged to help bring sanity to online media in Nigeria. I also read that a certain country was putting up structures to nib and sanction people who use the internet to cause political tensions.
A look at the comments on some of the news websites or their Facebook pages will show you how serious this is getting.
People come online to read stories on national issues then make comments that could trigger hate and incite violence.
Most of them do so not giving a mind to it. They think that “what happens online stays online”. How wrong. They fail to see that it is real people with real lives that come online and that the content we peruse from the net has a way of shaping and affecting us as a people.
Another set to consider are bloggers who from putting up fake death stories about celebrities have moved on to doing concocted stories on acts of terrorism, just to get more traffic to their sites. When one concocts a story and supports it with a picture that was taken during some other incidence, his/her blogger colleagues just copy and paste on their own platforms and in no time, it goes viral.
What they fail to see is that they are mercenaries of terrorism because they actually terrorize people by spreading fear through the internet.
We’ve heard of several instances of some stories on terrorism that was widely shared yet eventually turned out to be a hoax.
Personally, whenever I get a story that is absurd on Facebook or BBM, I usually throw some questions at the person I get it from. Below is one of such (It ensued between me and a lady on BBM);
“Where did you get this story from?”
“I got it from a blogger friend of mine”
” Did you verify the story before you sent it out to other people?”
“I did not. I expect him to have done so. It is not my job to verify. He should be the one to verify before posting. My own is to share when I see ”
“Is he a trustworthy source? Is he a journalist or did he in anyway study journalism?”
“Well I think so. You, did you study journalism? I see you share things on the internet. Did you study journalism? If you did, where did you do so?” (She was becoming irritated and defensive)
“Yes I did. I studied Mass Comm in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I was already writing for newspapers and magazines before and after my admission…Please let’s learn to verify information before we pass it out to other people. We need to verify the source of the information too”
“Me I don’t know O. I just saw it and I shared. It is not my job to make sure the news is correct. The bloggers should be the ones to do that. As a blogger, you people should be verifying your information before you send to us…”
“I understand ma’am. But as a citizen, you have a role to play too. As long as you intend to share content, you need to be sure of it. You could get implicated for spreading false stories”
“Arrrhhhh! Me I don’t know O! You should be telling that one to the blogger – He is your colleague – not me! You people should be the ones to verify O”
Obviously, a lot of people don’t know they have a role to play as citizens. Also, as humans, we ought to be concerned about the effect of our contributions/efforts on other humans because theirs too(what they do after getting the info) can affect us immediately or eventually.
On a daily basis, I see people share stories or drop comments that heat up the polity and spread fear and hate amongst other people.
Remember the dream about the ‘soldiers’ that this post started with? Before we ever get to such state, let’s all be responsible with what we share and consider how it will affect others before we share it. The surreal truth? We just might head to such a state if we don’t realise that there are things we do that might lead us to it. If we keep condemning our leaders without suggesting solutions or just keep putting out comments and posts that heat up the polity, the end result might not be savory.
The unity, peace and growth of our nation also lays in the actions and inaction of its citizens in as much as it rests on the decisions and indecision of our government . People tend to throw the attack on our leaders and don’t even look at how the things they do or don’t do could add up to how we exist/survive as a nation.
This is a call to Nigerien citizens who use the internet – Bloggers, social media critics, Twitter lords, Facebook activists – please let’s be responsible. There are many stories in Nigeria and outside Nigeria that are news worthy and valuable to our citizens. Let’s not keep spreading terror or falsehood and have it overshadow truth or content that can add value to us as a people. In as much as you need traffic and popularity, you need to ask yourself what it will cost other people who may be affected by that post you put out.
Also, to you – that innocent citizen that receives a BBM broadcast message, tweet, blog link, Facebook post etc about an issue that could be sensitive or crucial to the polity and our nation, please if you intend to share it, try to verify its viability through the source/sender.
While editing this piece, I got a BBM broadcast message on an issue between bus drivers and some soldiers. I got it from two people and it says passengers are currently stranded on the road. If it is true, I’ll have to consider what route to take when going towards where it is said to have occurred. If it is false, they just succeeded in making me consider alternative moves and put me in tension over nothing.
We receive messages like “If you are headed to Benin-Lagos expressway, please make a U-turn. Reports have it that there is a robbery attack ongoing” and ” NEWS!!! Yobe states is boiling now, churches are being burnt, many xtians killed. Pls pray even if its 5mins & 4wd 2 others. Don’t ignore, cry 2 our God against those Terrorists.”
While these can come in helpful when timely, it actually is detrimental if it is false or is being sent months or years after such incident occurred. The receivers are put in undue panic.
The internet cum social media has been quite helpful to people across the globe. It has helped in generating awareness of certain ills, emergencies, innovations etc. It has also helped the growth of several businesses, organizations and individuals in one way or the other. If you ask me, I would say the internet is one of the valuable wonders of our time. Let’s use it for good, especially in making our nation better. Whatever you do online, engage with patriotism and a sense of value/worth for other citizens and the nation as a whole.
About the Writer:
Philip Asuquo has been a frontline writer and brand communications expert for some years now. He studied Mass Communication in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and has been active in the sphere of the media, especially Public Relations.
While in school, Mr Asuquo was concerned about the intellectual growth of the African youths so he partnered with a friend to run a premium youth magazine. He later founded a youth newspaper called Campus Post.
Mr Asuquo believes in providing positive media content that will help reduce the spate of ills in the society.
He is currently the Chief admin of Gospel City Naija (gospelcitynaija.com), a content platform managed by his media/brand consultancy outfit, TRIFECTRA.
He is an ambassador for THE RELIEF ARK [ a humanitarian effort that provides support for flood victims and underprivileged persons] as well as an alumnus of TF-EDP (The Future-Enterprise Development Project), a platform put together by The Future Project and AIKI.
Reach Philip on +234 706 360 7101