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Fresh outrage as anti-social media bill scales 2nd reading in Senate

Nigerians have again expressed concern over the plan by to regulate social media in the country.

The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill, 2019, sponsored by Senator Muhammadu Sani Musa, passed second reading n the Senate yesterday.

The bill seeks a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment  for offenders and N10 million for corporate organizations found guilty.

Senators Chimaroke Nnamani and Bala Ibn Na’Allah kicked against the bill; while majority of the lawmakers supported it.

Nnamani alleged that the bill was surreptitiously introduced to stampede the freedom of speech.

He said the Nigerian constitution had addressed slander and other issues raised by the bill.

In his lead debate, Musa said the bill was imperative to mitigate the risk associated with information transmission via internet to monitor abuse and deliberate misconducts of users.

He said state and non-state actors were using internet falsehood to discredit government, misinform people and turn one group against the another.

“Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries are using internet falsehood to surreptitiously promote their causes, as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko haram,” he said.

An IT expert, Tokunbo Smith, in a chat with Daily Trust, alleged that controlling the social media indiscriminately would destroy Nigeria.

Smith, who is the president of Data and Knowledge Information Privacy Protection Initiative, said: Social media should be controlled via the service providers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, WhatsApp, the telecom operators and so on.

‘’This is because these providers provide the platforms where hate speech or bad material is carried. They are the first to receive these bad materials and the can easily be blocked by them’’.

A resident of Abuja, Saminu Sulaiman, described the bill as “a negative development” as it would prevent Nigerians from expressing their feelings.

Another resident, Mukhtar Yau said: “I think social media is a medium where by people express their feelings being it good or bad. The government won’t know what Nigerians are facing if the bill is being implemented.”

A businessman, David Uchechukwu , a businessman, described the move to regulate the social media as draconian, saying “It’s totally unacceptable; it’s like trying to gag the public.”

How other countries regulate social media

Russia

Under Russia’s data laws from 2015, social media companies are required to store any data about Russians on servers within the country.

Its communications watchdog is taking action against Facebook and Twitter for not being clear about how they planned to comply with this.

Russia is also considering two laws similar to Germany’s example, requiring platforms to take down offensive material within 24 hours of being alerted to it and imposing fines on companies that fail to do so.

China

Sites such as Twitter, Google and WhatsApp are blocked in China. Their services are provided instead by Chinese applications such as Weibo, Baidu and WeChat.

Chinese authorities have also had some success in restricting access to the virtual private networks that some users have employed to bypass the blocks on sites.

Germany

Germany’s NetzDG law came into effect at the beginning of 2018, applying to companies with more than two million registered users in the country.

They were forced to set up procedures to review complaints about content they are hosting and remove anything that is clearly illegal within 24 hours.

Individuals may be fined up to €5m ($5.6m; £4.4m) and companies up to €50m for failing to comply with these requirements.

 

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