Senate Revives Bill to Regulate Social Media Use, Imposes N150,000 Fine or 3 Years Imprisonment on Offenders

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Senate Revives Bill to Regulate Social Media Use

Update:

  • The Nigerian Senate has now revisited a controversial bill that seeks to criminalise hate speech.
  • The bill known as the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill was sponsored by the deputy chief whip, Aliyu Abdullahi.
  • It was one of twelve bills that were introduced on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. Its content will be debated on another legislative day.

The Nigerian Senate has re-introduced the ‘social media use’ bill which seeks to regulate how Nigerians use social media.

The bill which is titled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ passed its first reading on Tuesday, November 6, and was reportedly sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa.

NFIU
The Nigerian Senate

According to the bill, an individual who violates the regulations may pay a fine of N150,000, face 3 years imprisonment, or both.

Speaking on the bill, Senator Mohammed explained that the regulation was needed because false information on social media is a serious problem.

“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 much chaos in different parts of the World.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa
Senator Mohammed Sani Musa

Nigeria is not the first country to consider regulating social media use. Countries like Australia, France and Egypt have all implemented one level of control or the other to curtail the spread of false information.  

In addition, this is not the first time the social media bill has been introduced in the Nigerian Senate. A previous attempt at regulations was later withdrawn after it sparked a series of outrage across the country.

Mohammed, however, insists that the bill is not against freedom of speech.

“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.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa

He added that what he stood against was spreading false information about the President.

“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.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa
Corporations that abuse social media use may pay between N5-10 million in fines

Companies and corporations are also covered under the bill. Any organisation which is found guilty may pay between N5 million to N10 million in fines.

This means that any corporation like MTN, GLO or 9mobile that refuses to block false information despite the fact that they have been alerted by the authorities will be liable to pay the fine

Mohammed explained that fining the corporations that abuse the use of social media will serve as deterrence to others.

The bill has not yet been passed and might still be stopped by public outcry. But if it scales through, the social media regulation could mean freedom for the government to arrest those who express dissenting opinions on social media, as we have seen in Egypt.


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