The Federal Government of Nigeria has released what it called a Draft Code of Practice to guide the operations of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, TikTok, and other social media platforms in the country.
Part of the code, which seeks to regulate social media, states that each of the Platforms operating in Nigeria must provide “any information under its domain or any assistance to any authorized government agency for the purpose of carrying out an investigation, combating cybercrimes, or prosecuting an offense.”
The government also wants the social media platforms to 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.”
According to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the new rules tagged “Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria” was developed following a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari.
What they are saying
While noting that the Draft Code of Practice is aimed at protecting the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as defining guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem, NITDA said: “The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these online platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction, and economic choices. Hence, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of Online Platforms with Nigerians in order to maximize mutual benefits for our nation while promoting a sustainable digital economy.”
“Additionally, the Code of Practice sets out procedures to safeguard the security and welfare of Nigerians while interacting on these platforms. It aims to demand accountability from online platforms regarding unlawful and harmful content on their platforms. Furthermore, it establishes a robust framework for collaborative efforts to protect Nigerians against online harm, such as hate speech, cyber-bullying, as well as disinformation and/or misinformation,” the Agency added.
Some provisions of the draft Code
The government says any social media platform operating in the country must do the following:
- Act expeditiously upon receiving a notice from a user or an authorized government agency of the presence of unlawful content on its Platform. A 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, deepfake, 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.
- Disclose the identity of the creator of information on its Platform when directed to do so by a Court order. Provided that an order of this nature shall apply for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating, or prosecuting an offense concerning the sovereignty and integrity of Nigeria, public order, security, diplomatic relationships, felony, incitement of an offense relating to any of the above or in relation to rape, child abuse, or sexually explicit material.
- Where the first creator of the message in question is located outside Nigeria, the first creator of that information in Nigeria shall be deemed to be the first creator.
- Exercise due diligence to ensure that no unlawful content is uploaded to their Platform. Where a Platform receives a notice from a user or any authorized government agency that unlawful content has been uploaded, such Platform is required to take it down and ensure it stays down.
NITDA says the Code of Practice, which is now available for review by members of the public, was 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.
While there’s need for sensible regulations, nebulous provisions such as “protect Nigerians against…. hate speech…as well as disinformation and/or misinformation,” suspiciously sounds like the first step towards CENSORSHIP!