The Internet now plays a very important role in our lives. Many transactions are now done via the the internet. In fact, today, some transactions are only possible online. This trend wasn’t so a few years back. Now the outburst of using social media platforms, to intimidate, bully, harass, threaten, stalk, and defraud people have become a serious threat to national security. Other offences are also perpetrated with this vice, like posting fake news, writing falsehood, and publishing hate speeches that undermine the security of lives and properties, and encourages disunity.
You might not know this, but it is criminal to indulge in any of these socioeconomic misconducts, or behavior that devalues the structure of our democracy.
According to section 24 of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2015 anyone who uses the social media platform to threaten, intimidate, abuse, insult, coarse, bully and harass anybody commits an offence. This is a recent law in our criminal jurisprudence and its enforcement is critical to us as Nigerians.
I hereby reproduce section 24 (1) -(2) of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention) Act, 2015 as follows :
Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that –
(a) is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or
(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent:
commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
(2) Any person who knowingly or intentionally transmits or causes the transmission of any communication through a computer system or network –
(a) to bully, threaten or harass another person, where such communication places another person in fear of death, violence or bodily harm or to another person;
(b) containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to harm the person of another, any demand or request for a ransom for the release of any kidnapped person, to extort from any person, firm, association or corporation, any money or other thing of value; or
(c) containing any threat to harm the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value:
commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction-
(i) in the case of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection to imprisonment for a term of 10 years and/or a minimum fine of N25,000,000.00; and
(ii) in the case of paragraph (c) and (d) of this subsection, to imprisonment for a term of 5 years and/or a minimum fine of N15,000,000.00.
Now it is clear. For anyone involved in creating hashtags asking that a notorious kidnapper be freed for whatsoever reason have committed an offence according to the law. Those who write false news and share it on social media are hereby informed as this conduct might lead them to jail someday. For the many who threaten people through social media platforms, you should desist from this forthwith or risk a life in prison for as long as 10 years. Ignorance of the law is not a excuse.
Evans Ufeli is a lawyer and the author of acclaimed novel, ‘Without Face’. He is also an Alumni member of the Writers Bureau, Manchester, a highly sought-after conference speaker with a passion for the concept of change. He lives in Victoria Island, Lagos. You can visit his blog or contact him via Facebook or Twitter by clicking the icons below; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 08037712353