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What’s inside FG’s controversial social media bill?

The Nigerian government’s alleged plan to gag social media users seem to be making progress in the national assembly, much to the consternation of many Nigerians.

Read Also: Social media regulation and free speech

Sponsored by Senator Muhammad Sani Musa (APC-Niger East), the social media bill passed second reading last week.

Here are a few provisions of the bill;

First, while it has been nicknamed the Social Media Bill, it is actually titled the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132).

Second, it is almost an exact replica of a Singaporean bill with similar title which commenced on 2 October and aims to “prevent the electronic communication in Singapore of false statements of fact, to suppress support for and counteract the effects of such communication, to safeguard against the use of online accounts for such communication and for information manipulation, to enable measures to be taken to enhance transparency of online political advertisements, and for related matters.”

The Nigerian copy also proposes “to prevent transmission of false statements, declaration of facts in Nigeria and enable measures to be taken to counter the effects of such transmission; to suppress the financing, promotion and other support of online locations that repeatedly transmit false statements and declaration of facts; to enable measures to be taken to detect, control and safeguard against uncoordinated inauthentic behaviour and other misuses of online accounts and bots; to enable measures to be taken to enhance disclosure of information concerning paid content directed towards a political end; and to sanction offenders.”

Third, the bill empowers the police, “any” law enforcement agency, and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to order removal or corrections of false statements against public interest published online or order internet service providers to block access to online sites and accounts that transmit same.

Fourth, false information declaration includes false statements of fact; statements likely to be harmful to the country’s security, public health, safety, tranquility or finances; statements that harm Nigeria’s relations with other countries; statements that influence the outcome of an election or referendum; incite feelings of enmity, hatred towards a person, or ill will between a group of persons; or diminish public confidence in the performance or exercise of any duty, function or power by the government.

Fifth, the punishments includes N200,000 fine or 3 years imprisonment or both for making bots (not defined) for transmission or enabling another’s transmission of false statements of fact; N150,000 or 2 years imprisonment or both for soliciting, receiving or agreeing to receive any financial or material benefit as an inducement or reward to provide services for transmission of false declaration of fact; for others – fine not exceeding N500,000.

Transmitting of false declarations comes at a price of N300,000 or 3 years imprisonment or both; for other – fine not exceeding N10 million.

 

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