The Federal Government and technology giant, Google, yesterday agreed to collaborate in preventing the use of private and unlisted YouTube channels and live streams by proscribed groups, especially terrorist organisations.

The decision was reached when a Google team visited Information and Culture, Minister Lai Mohammed in Abuja yesterday.

Mohammed, in his welcome address, requested from the Google officials that channels and emails containing names of proscribed groups and their affiliates should be disallowed on Google platforms.

He listed Biafra Digest TV, Umu Biafra TV, Biafra Digest, Asa Biafra TV as examples of channels that spread subversive information/ contents.

Some of the channels, according to him, use local languages during their broadcast to evade being censored.

His words: ”We want Google to look into how to tackle the use of private and unlisted YouTube channels and YouTube live streams by proscribed groups and terrorist organisations. Channels and emails containing names of proscribed groups and their affiliates should not be allowed on Google platforms..

“Your platform is a platform of choice for IPOB, a proscribed terrorist group.

“We implore you not to make your platform available to them for their acts of violence and destabilisation.

“We hope you will cooperate with us as well as our security agencies in this direction.”

Mohammed told the team that Nigerians are among the most vibrant social media users in the world, with over 100 million Internet users.

He noted that Google, Facebook, Tik-Tok, Twitter and Whatsapp enable Nigerians to interact, share ideas, earn a living and participate in social and political affairs.

Mohammed also told the team that the same platforms are used by unscrupulous persons and groups for subversive and nefarious activities.

He said: “Governments worldwide have reacted in varied and measured ways to protect their citizens.

“Our interest, as a government, is to create a framework for protecting our citizens from the harmful impact of misinformation and fake news, as well as harmful use of the internet.”

The minister also said that the government recently proposed a “Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/ Internet Intermediaries”.

The code, according to him, provides a framework for collaboratively protecting Nigerian users of Internet platforms.

“This code couldn’t have come at a better time, as the country prepares for general elections next year. We are committed to working with platforms like yours as well as the civil society, lawyers, media practitioners and other relevant stakeholders to ensure a responsible use of the Internet and to protect our people from the harmful effects of social media,” Mohammed said.

Google Regional Director, Government Affairs and Public Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa, Charles Murito, , said his organisation shares the sentiment of the Federal Government on the abuse of social media by some groups.

He told the minister that the tech giant has a programme called “Trusted Flaggers” for trained citizens to track and flag contents of serious concern, especially on YouTube

Murito said: “We share the same sentiment and we do not want our platforms to be used for wrong purposes I want to assure you that we are going to take this issue seriously.

“Provide us with the list of the channels, we will work with you to ensure that they will no longer be of nuisance to you,” he said.

He added that Google has a desk for flagging of fake news, misinformation and other unwholesome contents on YouTube.

He therefore asked the minister to provide the contacts of those who can liaise with Google in the flagging unwholesome contents.

Also, Google Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager, Adewolu Adene, said a sub-sea cable which recently berthed in Nigeria from Portugal, is aimed at enhancing connectivity and access to the internet.

Adene added that the cable known as “Equiano” will drive down the cost of data, create jobs and facilitate the transfer of knowledge.

He discloed that through the Google News Initiative Challenge, 30 media platforms, with five from Nigeria, including the Dubawa fact-checking platform, would be awarded a $3.2 million grant in recognition of their innovative work in information dissemination.

Adene pledged the readiness of Google to work with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture to digitize recently-repatriated artifacts in order to preserve and market them to a global audience through Google Arts and Culture.

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