There have been many bills since 2015 that attempted to end fake news and regulate social media.
Just about a week ago, Lagos House of Assembly member, Desmond Elliot had incited the anger of Nigerians over his comments about the dangers of social media as he called for its regulation following the effects of the recent EndSars movement.
On Monday, November 1, the northern governors also declared their support for social media regulation following their meeting with the President.
Originally titled ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019’, It was introduced on November 5, 2019, and was sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, a member of the ruling Progressives Congress from the Niger State East Senatorial District.
The bill seeks to criminalise the use of social media in peddling false or malicious information or news in Nigeria.
It also aims to suppress falsehoods and manipulations and counter the effects of such communications and transmissions and to sanction offenders with a view to encouraging and enhancing transparency by Social Media Platforms using the internet correspondences.
According to the bill, a person must not:
- Transmit a statement that is false or,
- Transmit a statement that might:
- i. Affect the security or any part of Nigeria. ii. Affect public health, public safety, or public finance. iii. Affect Nigeria’s relationship with other countries. iv. influence the outcome of an election to any office in a general election. v. Cause enmity or hatred towards a person or group of persons.
On November 20, 2019 the bill passed second reading at the Nigerian Senate and its details were made public.
While the Social Media Bill was backed by some other senators like Elisha Abbo and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Senators like Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu East Senatorial District and Akon Eyakenyi, a senator from Akwa Ibom State were in opposition of the bill.
Its objectives include:
- To prevent the transmission of false statements or declaration of facts in Nigeria.
- To end the financing of online mediums that transmit false statements.
- To detect and control inauthentic behaviour and misuse of online accounts (parody accounts).
- When paid content is posted towards a political end, there will be measures to ensure the poster discloses such information.
Penalties and Fines
- Anyone guilty of any of the above is liable to a fine of ₦300,000 or 3 years imprisonment, or both (for an individual), and a fine not exceeding ₦10 million (for corporate organisations).
- For fake and parody online accounts that transmit statements listed above, anyone found guilty will be fined N200,000 or 3 years’ imprisonment or both (for an individual) or 5million naira (for corporate organisations).
- If such accounts transmit a statement that will affect security or influence the outcome of an election, such a person will be fined N300,000 or 3 years’ imprisonment or both.
- A law enforcement department can issue a “declaration” to offenders and this declaration will be issued even if the “false statement” has been corrected or pulled down.
- The offender will be required to publish a “correction notice” in a specified newspaper, online location, or other printed publication of Nigeria. Failure to comply, a person is liable to N200,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment or both (for individual) and 5 million naira for organisations.
- The bill says the law enforcement department will also issue an access blocking order to offenders and may direct the NCC to order the internet access service provider to disable access by users in Nigeria to the online location and the NCC must give the internet access service provider an access blocking order.
- An internet access service provider that does not comply with any access blocking order is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding ten million naira for each day during any part of which that order is not fully complied with, up to a total of five million naira.
Who does the bill affect?
The major institutions/individuals the new bill directly targets include, but are not limited to:
- Radio/TV stations
- Online/print newspapers
- On-air personalities (OAP)
- Website hosts
- YouTube channels
- Social media influencers
- Internet service providers
Opposition to the Bill
Days after the bill’s introduction in 2019, a “Stop the Social Media Bill! You can no longer take our rights from us” online petition campaign to force the Nigerian parliament to drop the bill received over 90,000 signatures within 24 hours.
From then till now, there has been stiff opposition to the bill from different quarters (Individuals, Civil societies, NGOs).
Nigerians recently started a new trend, #KillSocialMediaBill which is aimed at putting an end to the bill and reminding the Federal government that any attempt to regulate social media would not be taken lightly.
See some reactions below
They want to take our freedom of speech away from us,in between,social media has given employment to millions of Nigerians, why kill what you cannot provide! #KillSocialMediaBill
— Khalissa (@Deeva4dlord) November 3, 2020
— JJ. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa) October 29, 2020
Good Morning Fellow Nigerians,
I just want to use this medium to tell you all that if they succeed in regulating social media they have succeeded in silencing us, our hope for justice and accountability is shattered. Whatever it takes we must #KillSocialMediaBill.
— Olúyẹmí Fásípè ?? (@YemieFASH) November 3, 2020