FG Continues War With Social Media, Online Platforms - Matrixliveng
FG Continues War With Social Media, Online Platforms

FG Continues War With Social Media, Online Platforms

Social Media
  • Platforms Must Register with CAC, Delete ‘Illegal’ Contents In 24 Hours
  • It’s An Attempt To Stifle Free Speech-  Nigerians React

The last has not been heard of the face-off between the Nigerian government and online platforms in the country as the Federal Government has begun fresh moves to regulate their operation.

It would be recalled that Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 for several months after the social media network deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari. The FG however argued that the operations of the micro-blogging site were suspended over “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

Consequently, the Buhari-led administration sought to pass more stringent laws regulating Internet platforms, especially social media networks.

In light of that, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on Monday issued new regulations for Internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, TikTok and others available in Nigeria.

The agency said the code was developed with input received from online platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google, among others.

A statement signed by NITDA spokesperson, Hadiza Umar, said the new code was designed to protect the “fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.”

The code requires Internet platforms to “register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and appoint a designated country representative to interface with the Nigerian authorities.”

It also requires that they comply with all regulatory demands and comply with all applicable tax obligations on their operations under Nigerian law.

On content moderation, NITDA said Internet platforms must “provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform.”

They must also “provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and delete any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.”

NITDA said the new rules were “developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok amongst others.

“Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area were consulted such as Civil Society Organizations and expert groups. The results of these consultations were duly incorporated into the Draft Code of Practice.”

The draft Code of Practice notes that Internet platforms must promptly obey court orders directing it to provide “information under its domain or any assistance to any authorised government.”

The development is a fresh move by the federal government to regulate online platforms, amid concerns that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is clamping down on free speech and internet freedom — a move which the government has denied.

It would be recalled that Lai Mohammed, Minister Of Information And Culture, had asked the National Assembly to enact a law to regulate online media.

Mohammed had told the House Of Representatives that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act should be amended to empower the agency to regulate all social and online media platforms in the country.

The amendment to the NBC ACT, which was being considered by the lower legislative chamber at the time, was later suspended following public outrage.

The regulations also include policies on pornography as well as issues around cybercrime.

“Abide by Nigerian laws and not deploy or modify their Platform in any way that will undermine or interfere with the application and/or enforcement of the law,” the document reads.

“Act expeditiously upon receiving a Court order directing a Platform to provide any information under its domain or any assistance to any authorised government agency for the purpose of carrying out an investigation, combating cybercrimes,

or prosecuting an offence.

“Act expeditiously upon receiving a notice from a user, or an authorised

government agency of the presence of unlawful content on its Platform.

The platform must acknowledge the receipt of the complaint and take down the content within 24 hours.

“Act expeditiously to remove, disable, or block access to non-consensual content that exposes a person’s private areas, full or partial nudity, sexual act, deep-fake, or revenge porn, where such content is targeted to harass, disrepute, or intimidate an individual. A Platform must acknowledge the receipt of the complaint and take down the content within 24 hours.”

Online platforms are also expected to “prioritise authentic information in search, feeds, or other distribution channels; trace, expose, penalise, and close accounts and sources that amplify disinformation and misinformation”.

NITDA added that the federal government is committed to ensuring that Nigeria fully harnesses the “potentials of the digital economy and safeguards the security and interest of its citizens in the digital ecosystem”.

According to the agency, the code of practice “shall come into effect on the date issued by NITDA”.

Expectedly, the development has been generating reactions online.

According to Ebere Chidi, this is a ploy by the ruling party to gag social media ahead of the election.

“Just a few months for Nigerians to push them out of the way. They should continue their madness. Instead of tackling the insecurities bedevilling the nation, they are busy trying to gag the social media because the election is around the corner” she wrote!

She is ably supported by Khalif-Harun’s’ Dreamtease’ Otayokhe who also saw the development as an attempt to stifle free speech.

“This is a plot by the govt to stifle free speech to their own advantage due to the coming electrons. So sad that this is taking precedence ahead of prevailing security issues in the country” he lamented.

Otaighovwerha Sunny Ese is optimistic that the plan to stifle the voice of the youth will not work.

“It will not work. Is like this government think we can’t do anything. #EndSARS was just a warning to you guys. What will come next will make you guys understand that you serve us not we serving the government” he wrote.

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