The Nigerian Senate at plenary re-introduced a bill that will regulate the use of social media in the country. The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019’ was one of the 11 bills read for the first time at the floor of the house.
The sponsor of the legislation, member representing Niger East Senatorial District Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa, said the bill was aimed at curbing fake news on the internet but this action has been greeted by controversial reactions.
Musa, added saying that his bill on social media was aimed at guiding the users and not to gag media practitioners in Nigeria.
However, this is not the first time the government has mulled the passing of a bill to regulate the use of social media.
In 2015, there was a sponsored anti-social media bill but, the bill was kicked against by many Nigerians who believe it negates citizens’ fundamental rights and would restrict freedom of expression.
It should be recalled that on June 26, 2018, the Chairman of the Nigerian Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime, Abdul Fatai Buhari, announced that the Nigerian government lay before the Senate a Bill set to regulate social media because many Nigerians were misusing it.
With the re-introduction of this bill in an interview with journalists, Musa said it was aimed at ensuring sanity on social media.
He said “individuals who post false information on the internet, when found guilty would be asked to pay a fine of N150,000 or they are sentenced to three months imprisonment.
The Senator added that “any corporate organisation that refused to block false information after the regulating agency had alerted it would be asked to pay a fine ranging from N5m to N10m.
While social media is a place to connect with friends and family, these platforms have become a critical part of political mobilization in Nigeria and the world at large. It has also helped to expose government’s wrong doings and mobilize mass action to hold leaders accountable such as ‘Occupy Nigeria’, ‘Bring Back Our Girls’, etc.
Different school of thoughts have raised their concerns as regards the bill, while those against the bill argued that if the law is passed, the law could mean an unwarranted policing of citizens freedom of expression.
While others who are in support established that the law would allow for censorship of libelous or defamatory material on social media. The law will make it possible for persons inciting hate or making hate speeches online to be liable to arrest and prosecution.
Similarly, Nigeria’s minister of information Lai Mohammed affirmed that no responsible government would want the activities of social media that is capable of setting the country on fire.
According to statistics, Nigeria currently ranks highest in number of internet users with over 111.6 million internet users in Africa.
This active use of the internet by Nigerians is in diverse areas such as work-related activities, social media engagements, online transactions, purchases and so on.