The proliferation of desperate pranking videos by content creators has so much unleashed a reign of terror on unsuspecting Nigerians that if not checked could result in serious bodily or emotional harm to victims.
These content creators and pranksters have become so pervasive that it has become imperative for the Nigerian government to take active measures to regulate the activities of the individuals who, in a desperate bid to create entertaining content for their social media followers, are endangering the lives and mental health of Nigerians.
The shenanigans of these content creators and their wild desires to push boundaries have gone unchecked, unregulated and created a situation where pranksters have resorted to human rights abuses for the sake of likes, clicks and the concomitant social media capital.
We have observed that such videos have included instances of false imprisonment of victims by pranksters who unlawfully detain the victims, restrict or interfere with their movements and their rights to exercise such, harassment and assault, inducement to violent acts, as well as physical and emotional endangerment.
Some of these pranksters operate without consideration for the health, social and moral well-being of the victims who are often thrown in situations where they could be attacked with a bucket of water over the head, a potentially life-threatening scenario that could cause the victims to injure themselves in a mad scramble to escape for fear of their lives. We note that these acts could cause some victims to suffer grievous bodily harm, or exacerbate pre-existing health conditions such as pneumonia or High Blood Pressure. Socially, some of these videos have put serious strains on marital and social relations by pitting couples against each other and debasing the moral foundations for such relations.
While Nigerians have been variously categorised as the happiest people on earth and laughter has become a fundamental coping mechanism for Nigerians in the hard times we are all going through, we do not condone this hilarity being obtained at the expense of the emotional and moral torture the victims are subjected to in the cause of making these videos. We have observed that in some cases, the victims are trapped in these distressing situations for an extensive length of time, unduly prolonging the anxiety they feel.
The recent arrest and prosecution of a prankster, Abdullahi Adisa, popularly known as Trinity Guy, for sexualising a minor in the name of making a prank video demonstrates some of the liberties that content makers have taken and abused.
We note that the police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, had called for the arrest of the prankster before the local police acted. The spokesperson has equally implored the content makers to regulate themselves.
While we appreciate the rights of Nigerians to create funny content for their online viewers, we must also acknowledge that these pranksters do not seek the consent of the people they are recording and often use verbal threats to demand compliance from their victims. We also note that no safety measures or mechanisms are put in place should any of these pranks cause harm to victims or exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions.
We, therefore, call on the pranksters to unionise and regulate the conduct of their business with the priority being to curtail the endangerment of their victims and inculcate ethical practices and control in their trade. There is indeed an urgent need to create a standard. If necessary, the union should consider licencing its members, ensuring they have insurance coverage to cater for any harm they may cause their victims. By implication, this means that the appropriate authorities, like NBC, must have a sanction regime in place to regulate the conduct of such content creators while the police and NGOs should sensitise victims on how and where they can file complaints when their privacy, health or emotion has been violated and such should be diligently investigated and where necessary prosecuted and the victims adequately compensated.
The relevant authorities must act expediently to rein in this regime of anarchy being unleashed by unethical pranksters in the name of content creation. One person’s humour should not come at the expense of another’s, especially when people’s lives, physical and emotional health are being risked. It is time to address this issue.