The social media bill, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019,’ sponsored by Mohammed Musa introduced in the Senate recently has generated quite some controversy.
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 prohibits statements on social media deemed “likely to be prejudicial to national security” and “those which may diminish public confidence” in Nigeria’s government. It proposes these offenses be punishable by a fine, a prison sentence of three years, or both. The bill also seeks to allow law enforcement agencies to order internet service providers to disable internet access.
Nigerian campaigners are speaking out against a bill that would regulate engagement on social media with the campaign #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.
Senators Ibrahim Gobir, Abba Moro and Elisha Abbo vehemently supported the bill during plenary this week.
🇳🇬Senator Elisha Abbo wants to jail people cos he was caught in a sextoy shop with 2 ladies & he physically assaulted another woman in the shop (true). Just bcos we caught u buying buttplugs doesnt mean we shld go to jail. #HateSpeechBill #SocialMediaBillpic.twitter.com/NwhP3a5XMe
— Wale Gates 🇳🇬🇬🇧 (@walegates) November 21, 2019
Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East) was the only senator who opposed the bill on the floor of parliament when it came up for debate.
According to Nnamani, the bill is completely unnecessary because some of its provisions have been taken care of in the Cyber Crime Act signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I not only oppose this bill, I condemn it in its entirety. Based on our constitution, there is freedom of information and freedom of speech.
“There is a Cyber Crime Act that deals with this issue. There are also laws that deal with false information, libel, slander and so on.
Here are some key provisions of the bill:
Protection from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
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.
— Don-PaBLO (@PaBLO1759) November 22, 2019
The Bill is a replication of Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act 2019 signed into law in June.
Meanwhile, Singapore is a very bad example to copy from, it ranks 151 out of 180 in @RSF_en 'World Press Freedom Index'.#SayNoToSocialMediaBill pic.twitter.com/bpz36IhDTA
— EiE Nigeria (@EiENigeria) November 22, 2019
Good morning ! Hope all is well. Well it’s not. If the social media bill passes law enforcement agencies have the right to shut down internet at any time.This means if we are shouting about something our government is doing.They can TURN OFF our internet! #SayNoToSocialMediaBill pic.twitter.com/5CDw33djsx
— Bolanle Olukanni (@bolanleolukanni) November 22, 2019