In this era, the power of social media cannot go unnoticed and everyone struggles to partake in its benefits and so does the government in crippling their efforts. Nigeria is the latest country in Africa to rule out restrictions over social media.
Over the past weeks, Nigerians have been in protest over the “Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019″ dubbed Social Media Bill. The bill is sponsored by Muhammad Sani Musa of the Niger State East Senatorial District.
On Tuesday, November 5, 2019 the first reading of the bill to regulate online activity in Nigeria was held in the Nigerian National Assembly.
The second reading was held on November 20th in the Nigerian Senate and sparked an outburst of criticisms from Nigerians all over the internet and country wide protests.
Taking to the streets and various social media platforms, Nigerians chanted a similar hashtag #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.
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.
What does the social media bill state?
According to the bill, a person must not:
Transmit a statement that is false or transmit a statement that might:
- Affect the security of any part of Nigeria.
- Affect public health, public safety, or public finance.
- Affect Nigeria’s relationship with other countries.
- Influence the outcome of an election to any office in a general election.
- Cause enmity or hatred towards a person or group of persons.
Anyone guilty of any of the above is liable to a fine of ₦300,000, (Uganda shillings 3,060,325) 3 years imprisonment, or both (for an individual), and a fine not exceeding ₦10 million (Uganda shillings 102,347,899) (for corporate organisations). This also applies to fake social media accounts all over the Internet.
Who does the bill affect?
Anyone found guilty of spreading false information over the Internet is liable to arrest under the bill. The major individuals/institutions who are directly affected by the bill but not limited are:
- Radio/TV stations
- Online/print newspapers
- On-air personalities (OAP)
- Website hosts
- YouTube channels
- Social media influencers
- Internet service providers
Nigeria joins other countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Egypt and Benin Republic that have faced the clamp down on social media.
Tanzania passed a $900 annual blogger license fee in March 2018, Uganda introduced the bill in July 2018, Egypt censorship of the internet in August 2018 and Benin’s shutdown of the internet in regards to legislative elections in April 2019.
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Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana is a freelance writer for Newslibre & Spur Magazine. He is passionate about tech, games and occasionally writes about entertainment, lifestyle and so much more.