Abstract: The research was on the thrust to investigate social media as an effective tool to checkmate government. The research was anchored on Technological Determinism Theory. A survey research method was adopted. The main data collection instrument for this research was a questionnaire. The method of data collection for this research was face to face administration of questionnaires to the respondents. Frequency and percentage was used to analyze the data collected. The finding shows that the most commonly used social media among Nigerians was Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. Most of the respondents (46.9%) received, shared and participated in discussions about government activities and policies once in a while using information technology and social media. While the majority of the respondents learn about their civic responsibility or civic right via social media. Also, comments and reactions from social media users influence government decision making part. The study recommended that hate speech should not be allowed to pass despite that the anti-frivolous bill ended in a waste bin, thus, people can easily objectively criticize the government without undue punishment.
1.1 Background to the Study
The rising of Information Communication Technology particularly social media has made the public domain grow while information that used to be in the expert domain is becoming publicly available and new mechanisms for public involvement are being explored.
According to Akinfeleye, (2015) in a political chat on Channels TV prior to the 2019 General Election in Nigeria established that members of the mass media are no longer the only body setting the agenda on social-political-economy matters again in this era of citizen journalism as citizens are now part of the agenda-setters who set it through their social media timeline, group, blog and many other online platforms this prevented media monopoly and hegemony.
Today, people can discuss government policies, programmes, activities and pass their judgement (Opinions) through social media which translated to their participation in governance. This activity among the citizens is called civic journalism.
For instance, the kidnapping of the over 200 Chibok school girls some years ago was known within a few minutes after the incident and went viral on social media with a different opinion, also, the release of 21 Chibok girls became an issue of debate among Nigerians on social media, blogs, web pages and so on within few seconds of the incidence with difference headings and picture picked from different angles. Also, Bring Back Our Girls campaign became more popular on social media. The same occur when the government announced the removal of fuel subsidies, the announcement of sales of government assets and the recent Endsars protest which started online.
However, advancement in Information and Communication Technology are otherwise known as new media in this 21st century has revolutionalized all facets of human activities including communication, interaction and politics.
Kur (2004) cited in Awake Magazine (2002) posits that the dynamic nature of the 2lst century and more centuries to come rests on technological revolution. No wonder, Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian English Professor 1964 propounded the concept of a “Global Village” regarding the entire globe as having the potential of becoming a “global community” where information and news about anything in the world would be readily available for anyone’s consumption in any part of the world (Christopher, 2012).
Going by Brian (2021), 4.48 billion people currently use social media worldwide, up more than double from 2.07 billion in 2015. By region, social media growth in 2019-2020 is led by Asia: +16.98%, Africa +13.92%, South America +8.00%, North America +6.96%, Europe +4.32%, and Australasia +4.9%.
Also, Facebook is the leading social network at 2.9 billion monthly active users, followed by YouTube (2.3 billion), WhatsApp (2 billion), FB Messenger (1.3 billion), and WeChat (1.2 billion). However, as a result of this fact, social media usage is gaining more and more significant places among citizens.
According to Adedeji (2015) in Suomen Toivo–Think Tank (2012) writes that “social media are new information network and information technology using a form of interactive communication skills, where users produce the content of information and interpersonal relationships are established and maintained in the process. A typical social media service could be content sharing, web communities, or an Internet forum.
On the social media, the users are not passive like in the case of television, radio, and newspaper, rather they are now active in the formation and exchange of information (Adedeji, 2015). Today, social media is deeply involved in shaping public opinion, perceptions and an awareness of events as they unfold. Information that used to be private domain is now in the public domain as citizens are now part of information gathering and dissemination (Robert and Godwin, 2012).
More recently, citizen journalism (also known as public journalism) has become the media equivalent of grassroots democracy. This is because, as each participatory democracy encourages its citizens to participate and contribute to the administration of the state, so citizen journalism allows for public engagement in the media practice.
A tremendous change in the Nigerian political process has been the rise of social media. How social media has influenced politics in Nigeria is prominently shown in the way that political parties were unable to change election results as they were coming out of the various polling stations. It against this background that the research examines social media as an effective tool to checkmate activities of governance especially to check government excesses, expressing their opinions, views about government activities; programmes etc. that ordinary might not be possible through traditional mass media.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
There are lots of research done on cyber or online use but only few focused on social media usage in checkmating government abuse, activities, programme and policies, although, there have been lots of research relating to the influence of social media on adolescent social behaviour, the internet on research and education among student, social media and students addictions, social media and hate speech etc.
Poor cyber policies and law regulating users conducts in virtual environment, level of cyber education and exposure of the users, the believe that they cannot be tracked, creation of anonymous account on the Internet, the cyber skills of the officers to police online users, poor cyber security and privacy, religion, ethnicity among others have been attributed to major causes and challenges of social media as an effective tool to checkmate activities of governance.
Social media users in Nigeria know little or nothing about the rule or law guiding posting, comments, sharing of information and so on and how to better use it to mobilize against government politics and programmes.
Majority of the social media users expressed their opinion with little or no proper editing of the contents they are sharing. The source of some of the information, idea, concept being discussed on social media and through other sites are not credible. Opinions and attitudes are only formed based on the information posted on social networking sites
This research is concerned with social media as an effective tool to checkmate governance especially to check government excesses, expressing their opinions, views about government activities, programmes etc.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
- To examine the extent to which people explore social media to checkmate government activities.
- To examine challenges hindering effective use of social media as a tool for checkmating government excesses among Nigerians.
1.4 Research Questions
- To what extent are people exploring social media to checkmate government activities?
- What challenges hinder the effective use of social media as a tool for checkmating government excesses among Nigerians?
1.5 Significance of the Study
This research is relatively new to the field of mass communication, although some scholars have written on press freedom and mass media, freedom of the press and investigative journalism yet only a few of them have ever written on social media and press freedom because is an emerging area.
Therefore, being a new aspect, the work will benefit bloggers, students and media professionals on the need to use social media appropriately rather than encouraging abuse, name calling and hate speeches on their platforms.
Individuals will benefit from this study because they will know how beneficial the Freedom of Information has empowered them while some of the limitations to their freedom of information will be revealed to them.
Corporate bodies such as Nigerian Union of Journalists, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, CDHR and other related organisations will through the research know how best to utilize social media and other information technology in mobilizing and checkmating government excesses or calling government to order.
Government alongside its agencies is expected to know why social media as one of the targeted media of dissemination of information and design policies and regulations that will be prevent its abuse. i.e Government through its agencies such as National Assembly should be conscious on what will be the clauses in the proposed bill if it will be accepted by the society who believed that democracy is about freedom.
Future researchers who many what to carry out research in this area or related aspect will find this materials as reference point.
The core significance of the study is to add to the body of knowledge in mass communication and fill the gap in the area of press freedom, freedom of speech and expression, social media/online media law in Nigeria among others.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study which examines social media as an effective tool to checkmate activities of governance was limited in scope to respondents in Lagos metropolis particularly those in Oshodi, Ojota, Ikeja, Mushin/Ladipo and Yaba/Akoka, respectively for proximity and due to time, fund, geographical structure of Nigeria and other logistics since it is very difficult if not impossible to study all respondents in Nigeria.
The demography variables of the respondents such as sex, age, income level, educational qualification, religion etc are considered before the structuring and distribution of the research instrument.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Social media: This entails the use of interactive platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp
Effective: It means proper use of social media to checkmate government activities, policies and programmes.
Checkmate: This refers to a situation when people pass judgment, criticize, express their feelings and opinons on government programmes, efforts, activities etc.
Governance Activities: This refers to the programmes and policies of government such as removal of subsidy, anti-corruption crusade of the present government, recession, Chibok girls, book-haram etc
Public Participation: It means making people to take part or the process of mobilizing people towards a particular issue or activities.
Governance: The traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised which could be at the local, state and national level.
Freedom of Information Act: Freedom of Information is the act to make public records and information more freely available.