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Can The Proposed Social Media Regulation Bill Remedy Abuse Of Rights

Can Proposed Social Media Regulation Bill Remedy Abuse Of Rights

Nigerians have expressed their outrage by a proposed bill by the Nigerian senate to regulate the use of social media by its citizens.

The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ was introduced on Tuesday, November 5 and according to the sponsor of the legislation, it will curb fake news on the internet.

As mixed reactions trail its re-introdution, here are three things you should know about the controversial bill.

Penalties
Senator Mohammed Sani Musa who proposed the bill tells Premium Times,

“If anyone is caught with this kind of situation, you cough out between N150,000 to a maximum imprisonment of three years or both. And if it is a corporate organisation that refused to block that false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by authorities not to disseminate that information for public interest and they still go ahead to do it, refusing to do that blockage will be penalised between N5 million to N10 million for those organisations.

“For example, MTN, Glo, 9 mobile etc. which we use their platform in transmitting these information, if nothing is done, we fine them and you will see that it will be deterrence to others,” the lawmaker said.

Needed Remedy or Abuse of Rights
Civil society groups have lamented that should the proposed bill be passed into law, it will set back all the progress Nigeria has made in its fight for the protection of human rights, especially the freedom of expression. When the 2015 bill was proposed, Nigerians used the #NoToSocialMediaBill to oppose the proposed law. While passing a bill to fight misinformation is not the problem, there is the fear that the Nigerian government could misuse the law.

Defending the bill, Senator Mohammed while speaking with journalists in his office said the bill is for “patriotic Nigerians” who want to see the country live in peace. He went further to note the bill is not an attempt to gag the social media or right to free press.

It is a legislation that will guide how we can tolerate our activities on social media. According to him, as a developing nation facing so many challenges, there is no better time than to regulate the Internet.

An APC Agenda?
It is interesting to note that this is not the first time a bill to regulate the use of social media has been proposed by the senate. In 2015, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah from the ruling All People’s Congress party (APC) proposed a draft bill to “Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and Other Matters Connected Therewith.”

The proposed bill made it illegal to start any type of petition without a sworn affidavit in a court of law that the content is true The articles of the law spelt out jail terms and huge fines for individuals who shared “abusive contents” about politicians and other public figures. The law even went beyond social media and granted security authorities the power to spy on text messages and other media.

Following public outcry with many slamming the provisions of the bill as repressive and calculated to infringe on individuals’ rights online, it was withdrawn in 2016.

Two years down the line, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa also from the APC proposed the bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’.

However, it is worthy of note that while Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed backs the bill to regulate social media citing the government’s need to curb activities of social media capable of setting the country on fire to continue, Nigeria’s vice president, Professor Yemi Osibanjo does not agree. Osinbajo on Thursday stated that that the regulation of the social media in Nigeria was not necessary.

By Akinwale Akinyoade

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