Social media bill scales second reading in Senate

A Bill for an Act to Make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and for related matters 2019 passed second reading in the Senate.

This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the bill by the sponsor, Sen. Musa Sani (APC-Niger east) during Tuesday’s plenary.

Leading the debate, Sani said that the bill was a 36-clause legislative proposal to provide for the prevention of broadcast of falsehood and manipulative contents using the internet and its intermediaries for transmission.

“It prescribes sanctions to offenders with a view to deterrence and the penalty for defaulters ranges from fine of up to N300, 000.”

Sani added that the bill also provided for the issuance of regulations dealing with the transmission of false statements of facts in Nigeria upon declaration.

“It also issues guidelines for internet intermediaries and providers of mass media services and sanctions for offenders.”

The lawmaker further said that the internet had its drawbacks one of which was the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users including malicious contents such as confrontational propaganda among others.

“Today, motivated by geopolitical interest and identity politics, state and non-state actors use falsehood to discredit governments and misinform people against each other.

“Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries use internet falsehood to promote their course as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko Haram.

“Elections around the world have seen domestic groups use misinformation to support their preferred candidates and disparage the opposition.

“In Nigeria it is particularly disconcerting given our plurality and low literacy level.

“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and his purported replacement by one Jibril of Sudan among others are things that threaten the peace, security and harmony of our people.”

While supporting the bill, Sen. Ibrahim Gobir (APC- Sokoto East) said that there was need to regulate the internet and punish offenders.

“It is an issue we have to support,” he said.

Sen. Abba Moro (PDP-Benue South) said that the bill was one with a good intention and would protect the society.

“One way or the other we have been victims of the spread of falsehood and the manipulation of the internet has caused a lot of havoc to some of us.

” I believe it is intended to protect society against unscrupulous elements within the society.

“In this jet age, if we allow an unbridled manipulation of the internet and the spread of falsehood, society will be at the mercy of these elements.

” If we leave this to continue the way it is spreading, to take root in Nigeria, at a certain point, we may find it difficult to come to terms with the damage that it will do to society, ” he said.

He urged the senators to support the bill to be passed into law, “at least to regulate one aspect of our lives that is negative.”

Sen. Elisha Abbo(PDP- Adamawa North) said that if fake news was not regulated, “it is a cancer waiting to consume all of us.

“Even conventional media that are regulated by government are suffering from falsehood. I am supporting this bill holistically. This bill is good and if we cannot regulate the spread of falsehood, it will consume all of us,” he said.

Opposing the bill, Sen. Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP- Enugu East) said that “In principle, I not only oppose the bill, I condemn it in its entirety.

“Section 39(1) of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of information and speech, there is a cybercrime act that deals with this issue and there are also laws that have to deal with false information; libel, slander.”

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan referred the bill to the Senate Committee in Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative action and report back to the Senate in four weeks.

(NAN)

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