The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, has said the social media can’t be left to operate without control.

A State House statement on Monday said Shehu spoke at the Kawararafa Media Award in Abuja on Sunday night.

He said, “The entire Kasuwan Magani saga that resulted in the death of more than 50 people was because someone posted misleading information on WhatsApp that went viral.

“All countries in the world are trying to make laws to check the excesses. Many countries are trying to control the situation. The Europeans have placed a new law that holds the companies responsible.

“In United Kingdom, the parliament has received a report on social media. There is youth addiction to it, just like cigarettes. Without any form of control, it has done harm to women, ethnic minorities, individuals, institutions and countries,’’ the statement by the Deputy Director, Information, Mr Atta Essa, quoted Shehu as saying.

He said that to demonstrate that the government was not against free speech, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, had repeatedly called for a meeting of stakeholders to agree on modalities for regulating the social media.

“The Federal Government is saying that stakeholders should come together and agree on regulation. We know that no matter how bad the situation is, it favours someone.

“Some have argued that our Constitution already has laws on libel, but the laws of the 60s never anticipated social media.

“No government has the right to muzzle freedom of speech. We don’t support the taking of lives as punishment. People insult others and share false information on social media. I hope that hate speech will be tackled so that Nigeria will be a sane place to live in,’’ he added.

He said the global trend required that a journalist should undergo training and licensing before reporting, adding that in the case of the social media, “with a phone, a tablet or laptop, anyone can reach millions, sometimes for good and other times with ulterior motives.’’