One of the hot topics to make the rounds on social media following the emergence of the #EndSARS movement is about a bill that would regulate the online space should it become law.
The bill which had raised eyebrows in 2019 when it was first proposed received attention from the public once again after a video of Nollywood actor and lawmaker, Desmond Elliot calling for it to be passed into law surfaced online.
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This bill is one of the most controversial in Nigeria’s history. This article aims to explain what it’s about, its potential impact, and why many Nigerians are against it.
The History Of The Bill
In November 2019, two bills were proposed: the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and the ‘Social Media Bill’. The ‘Hate Speech Bill”, also known as the ‘Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill’ is being championed by Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Deputy Chief Whip), while the social media bill, otherwise called the ‘Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill’ was masterminded by Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa.
The social media bill has already passed the second hearing on the floor of the senate and requires only one more reading to become a law. This article is focused on the social media bill and all there is to know about it.
The Potential Impact Of The Bill
Since the social media bill was proposed, it has raised a lot of controversy in the country. However, Musa, the sponsor of the Bill, insists the bill would not silence social media users should it become law contrary to what has been propagated. According to him, it will only curtail the spread of fake news and falsehood.
“One of the disadvantages of the internet is the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users.
“Today, motivated by geopolitical interest and identity politics, state and non- state actors use the internet to discredit government, misinform people and turn one group against the other.
“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhariin London and his purported replacement by one Jubril of Sudan, among others, are things that threaten the peace, security, and harmony of our people,” he says.
Musa also stated that the widespread occurrence of troll or bot accounts used to rapidly spread falsehood across Nigeria in a manner that now threatens national security is all the more reason why the bill should be passed.
“Penalty for defaulters goes up to N300,000 for individuals and up to N10 million for corporate organisations and imprisonment of up to three years or both.
“It also issues guidelines for internet intermediaries and providers of mass media services and sanctions for offenders,” the lawmaker says.
What Nigerians Think About This Bill
Nigerians have been riled up about the implications of the social media bill holds. One of the first red flags about the bill were allegations that it was plagiarised from similar pieces of legislation in Singapore and elsewhere.
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The most worrying aspects of the bill, however, are some clauses that indicate law enforcement agents can shut down the internet at will, internet providers who refuse to comply will pay N10million fine, a person deemed to have made statements that “diminish public confidence” will pay N300000 fine, and more.
Many Nigerian influencers, celebrities, and civil rights groups have taken to social media to express their disapproval of the bill, with many viewing it as the end of freedom of speech should it become law.
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