The Nigerian Senate has finally re-introduced the bill seeking to regulate social media use in Nigeria, as it passed the first reading at the Senate on Tuesday.
The bill titled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ was reportedly sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, senator representing Niger East Senatorial District.
While addressing journalists in Abuja, Senator Mohammed disclosed that the legislation was needful because it would protect the country’s “fragile unity”. According to him, the advent of social media necessitated the need for a country to see how this new media is tolerated.
“It is a legislation that will guide how we can tolerate our activities on social media. False information has been disseminated so many times and they have caused so many chaos in different parts of the World.
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“I as an individual may decide to remain in my room or office and then draft something I know very well is false because I want to hit at someone. I will decide to draft and throw on social media. Waiting few seconds, it’s on there. Before you know it, it has been shared all over. I have a passion for IT and I know what it takes to disseminate your information, it is like the speed of light.”
The Senator further said the introduction of the bill is not a move to prevent Nigerians from airing their views objectively but to emulate other countries of the world in preventing the spread of falsehood on social media.
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“I felt we need it in this country if countries like Philippines, Singapore, Italy, Malaysia, Australia, France, Indonesia, Egypt are putting control to prevent the spread of false information, what stops us from doing it? There has never been a time when Nigeria has been very fragile in terms of its unity than this period.
“It is not to stop people from going into the internet to do whatever they feel legitimately is okay to do but what we felt is wrong is for you to use the medium to document information that you know is false, just because you want to achieve your desirable interest.
“If today, you can disseminate information of your President, taking a picture of the President and putting it in an invitation card, giving false information of your President, the office is the highest seat in the land. It is sacrosanct. It is something we cannot see it as anyhow information and you think that is just part of freedom of information or there is liberalisation of Social Media so you can do anything. As far as I am concerned it is wrong.”
The Penalties: According to the bill, an individual who violates the regulations may pay a fine in the tune of N150,000, or bag three years imprisonment, or both. On the other hand, any corporate organisation, which is found wanting, may pay between N5 million to N10 million.
Senator Musa statements read: “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, 9mobile, etc. which we use their platform in transmitting this information, if nothing is done, we fine them and you will see that it will be a deterrence to others,” the lawmaker said.
The bottom line: It should be noted that a similar anti-social media bill was introduced by the previous eighth Senate but was later withdrawn after it sparked outrage across the country.