EXPLAINER: Important things to know about Nigeria’s proposed Social Media Bill

SENATE PRESIDENT
SENATE PRESIDENT: Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan

The bill to regulate the use of Social Media and curb fake news on the internet passed second reading at the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019,’ sponsored by Mohammed Musa was introduced in the Senate two weeks ago.

Since its introduction, the bill has sparked outrage among Nigerians and internet users in particular.

The legislation comes a few years after a similar anti-social media bill introduced in the eight Senate sparked outrage across Nigeria.

Mr Musa said the bill does not intend to gag the media but to check the spread of false information on the internet.

“It is rather an opportunity to address the growing threats which if left unchecked, can cause serious damage to our polity and disrupt peaceful existence,” he said.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINER: Important things to know about Nigeria’s ‘Hate Speech’ bill

The lawmaker said while the internet has democratised information, the fact remains that it has also been a weapon – which is why governments across the world are trying to mitigate the risks associated with information transmission via the internet by monitoring abuse and deliberate misconduct.

Here are some key provisions of the bill:

*Long Title:

Protection from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019.

*Explanatory Memorandum

This Act is to prevent Falsehoods and Manipulations in Internet transmission and correspondences in Nigeria.

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.

*Objectives

– One objective of the bill is to prevent the transmission of false statements or declaration of facts in Nigeria.

– Another objective of the bill is to end the financing of online mediums that transmit false statements.

– Measures will be taken 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.

– There will be sanction for offenders.

*Transmission of false statements

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.

– Anyone guilty of the above is liable to a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment or both (for individual); and a fine not exceeding ten million naira (for corporate organisations).

– Same punishment applies for fake online accounts that transmit statements listed above.

*Parody accounts

– The bill says a person shall not open an account to transmit false statement.

– Anyone found guilty will be fined N200,000 or three years imprisonment or both (for an individual) or five million 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 three years imprisonment or both.

– If a person receives payment to reward to help another to transmit false statements knowingly, he/she is liable to a fine of N150,000 or three years imprisonment or both. If a person receives payment to reward to help another to transmit a statement affects security or influence the outcome of an election, the fine is N300,000 or three years imprisonment or both (for individual) and ten million naira for organisations.

*Declaration

According to the bill, 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 five million naira for organisations.

*Access Blocking Order

The bill says the law enforcement department will also issue an access blocking order to offenders.

– The law enforcement department 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.

** A person is however, free to make an appeal to the High Court against the regulation.


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