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The highly controversial Social Media Bill (That is: Protection from internet Falsehoods and Manipulation and other related matters Bill 2019) set the various social media platforms on fire after passing through the second reading on the floor of the Senate a few days ago.
It seems that the days when the judiciary was regarded as the last hope of the common man have become fading memories, especially, with the recent cases of corruption allegations rocking the judiciary. These unfortunate occurrences have worked together to reduce the esteem and glory of the judiciary before the common man. They have also shaken the faith of the people in the ability of the judiciary to deliver justice.
All these coupled with endemic corruption and incompetence have led people to be resorting to the social media as the major platforms or medium through which the common citizens express their grievances and dissatisfaction towards the government. In truth, the social media has become the means through which the voiceless find their voices. A means of ventilating their pains and breach of their rights before the court of public opinion.
Then the social media bill.
The social media bill sponsored by Senator Muhammad Sani Musa is therefore seen by many Nigerians as a way to finally silence the common man from not only holding our political leaders accountable but also finding the elusive justice which has somewhat become scarce in the mainstream judicial fora.
Social Media Expressions:
The perceived reason for the social media bill is that it seeks to muzzle Nigerians by blocking the medium through which they have always commented on and expressed their opinions on sundry issues including failures of the government, displeasure towards some government policies and some shameful acts of politicians and people in government.
One of such expressions was towards a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Elisha Abbo, who was caught on camera earlier this year assaulting a woman during an argument in a sex toy shop in Abuja, Nigeria. Senator Abbo is one of those supporting and promoting the obnoxious bill.
The assault footage went viral on social media and aroused the anger of the Nigerian people. So, it is not surprising to see the likes of Senator Elisha Abbo as strong supporters of this highly controversial social media bill.
In fact, in the words of Senator Elisha Abbo:
“ The issue of fake news in this country, if it is not regulated, if it is not caged, it is a cancer waiting to consume all of us ”
How possible is that?
We are watching and waiting!
The Social Media Bill Proposes The Following Among Other Things:
- Its aim is to prevent the transmission of false statements/declaration of facts in Nigeria and to enable measures to be taken to counter the effects of such transmission.
- Punishment in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding N300,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, or in any other case, to a fine not exceeding N10 Million.
- The law enforcement department may direct the NCC to order the internet access service provider to take reasonable steps to disable access by end-users in Nigeria to the declared online location. (this they referred to as access blocking order )
- Also, an internet access service provider that fails to comply with an access blocking order shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine for each day during any part of which that order is not fully complied with, up to a total of N10 Million.
Questions Generated By the Social Media Bill:
- What happens to the freedom of information bill
- Are some of the things proposed by the Social Media Bill not already covered in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other relevant laws currently in force in Nigeria?
- What happens to the fundamental rights of individuals for expression?
- Are we going back to dictatorship?
- Can’t the government take criticism?
The Social Media Bill recently scaled through the second reading on the floor of the Senate.