The Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), has opposed the proposed Social Media Bill, insisting that if passed into law, will stifle the power of innovation and creativity among Nigerian youths that are very active on various social media platforms.
The proposed Social Media Bill, which was first introduced on November 5 2019, at the upper house of the National Assembly, has passed the first and second readings on the floor of the Senate, and the bill seeks to regulate Nigeria’s online space to curb the spread of falsehood and fake news in Nigeria which, according to some law makers, threatens the unity of the country.
The Social Media Bill, officially titled “Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019,″ is being sponsored by Muhammad Sani Musa, representing the Niger State East Senatorial District, and firmly backed by some few other Senators.
But, President of NCS, Prof. Adesina Sodiya, who said the NCS was against the bill because it would stifle innovation and creativity among tech savvy youths who are active on social media. According to him, “If the Senators are afraid that ‘Hate Speech’ may emanate from youths on social media, they should also realise that there is a great difference between ‘Hate Speech’ and logical criticism from among Nigerian youths on social media platforms.”
He insisted that creativity and innovation largely depended on comments and suggestions from people, which are mainly found on social media platforms.
Sodiya, who spoke to journalists at a press conference in Lagos recently, advised the lawmakers to carry out wider consultations before passing such bill, which he said, remained detrimental to technology growth and development in the country.
He also called on the law enforcement agencies in the county to stop the harassment of innocent Nigerians that are erroneously being suspected as criminals without proof to substantiate their claims.
“The idea of Police harassment of innocent youths on the streets, where youths are stopped and asked to surrender their mobile phones and laptops for checks, must be stopped because it is an uncivilised action on the part of the Police,” Sodiya said.
He explained that in developed countries of the world, where Social Media Law is being practiced, such counties had already put in place, mechanisms that are driven by technology to curb criminal activities, and not by physical assault and harassment of innocent people.
The proposed Social Media Bill, which was also opposed to by majority members from the Senate and House of Representatives, states that a person must not transmit a statement that is false or transmit a statement that might affect the security of any part of Nigeria. It stated clearly that any statement that is likely to affect public health, public safety, public finance, or affect Nigeria’s relationship with other countries, must not be tolerated.
The bill further stated that no statement should influence the outcome of an election to any office in a general election, or cause enmity or hatred towards a person or group of persons.
It added that anyone guilty of such statement, is liable to a fine of N300,000, or three years’ imprisonment, or both for an individual, and a fine not exceeding N10 million for corporate organisations.
Sodiya, however, suggested that the presidency should revisit the country’s Digital Rights Bill that was not assented to last year by President Mohammadu Buhari, for various reasons.
Last year, Buhari declined to sign the Digital Rights Bill on the grounds that it “covers too many technical subjects and fails to address any of them extensively.”
The Digital Rights Bill was supposed to be one that protects the fundamental rights of Nigerians on the internet and ensure their safety and well-being.