The Social media bill has been met with widespread criticism in the past
Actor cum Politician, Hon. Desmond Elliot, as debunked the rumour going around on social media that he was part of the members of Lagos State House of Assembly pushing a bill to place restrictions on speech on social media and Nigeria’s Internet space.
Twitter has been abuzz with reactions to a tweet by social media influencer, Dr. Olufunmilayo claiming that the Lagos State House of Assembly and Elliot in particular was developing a social media bill to regulate and control speech.
Elliot, who represents Surulere constituency has, however, come out to deny these allegations.
He emphasized that no state house of assembly has the jurisdiction to pass a bill as this is solely legislated upon by the federal government.
According to him, his discussion about the social media was for celebrities, motivational speakers and social media influencers with huge following to “cut down on the hate narrative, everyone is going through so much right now”.
The discussion on social media bill to regulate and control speech has been on for a while
The social media bill was first introduced during the 8th National Assembly in 2016. Many Nigerian social media users complained that several of the bill’s clauses posed an hindrance to free speech on the internet. Again in 2019, the first reading for a bill to regulate Nigeria’s online space was also held at the upper house of the National Assembly
This time, the bill was officially titled “Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019″. It was sponsored by Muhammad Sani Musa of the Niger State East Senatorial District. The Social Media Bill was firmly backed by some other senators like Elisha Abbo, representing Adamawa North Senatorial District.
The idea behind the introduction of this bill, as explained by it’s sponsor, was to curtail the spread of falsehood and fake news in Nigeria as it threatens the country’s.
This bill was fast tracked as just few weeks after, the bill’s second reading was held at the Nigerian Senate.
It is worth noting, that this the bill was not widely accepted by the house. It met some opposition from senators like Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu East Senatorial District and even members of the House of Representatives, like Dachung Bagos of Plateau State. The major argument against the bill was it’s effect on Nigeria’s democracy.
What does the social media bill entail?
The bill 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.
- 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, 3 years imprisonment, or both (for an individual), and a fine not exceeding ₦10 million for organisations.
The major institutions/individuals the social media bill directly targets:
- Radio/TV stations
- Online/print newspapers
- On-air personalities (OAP)
- Website hosts
- YouTube channels
- Social media influencers
- Internet service provider
The usefulness of introducing this bill has been questioned by many since there are pre-existing laws and measures already in place to control acts it’s to supposedly control.