The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas to reject the recently reintroduced social media regulation bill.
SERAP noted that if passed it would unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression and privacy of Nigerians.
The organisation called on Akpabio and Abbas to request the administration of President Bola Tinubu to drop any ongoing efforts to put pressure on Google, YouTube, TikTok and other social media companies to “unduly restrict these fundamental human rights.”
According to SERAP, the bill would “criminalize the legitimate and lawful exercise of human rights.”
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) last week reportedly stated that, “one of Nigeria’s major problems now is social media”, and described the social media as “a monster”.
In a letter dated October 14, 2023 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, which was made available to THE WHISTLER on Sunday, the organisation said the social media is neither Nigeria’s problem nor a monster, adding that any regulation of it would have arbitrary and excessive effects, and “cause incalculable damage, both in material and human rights terms.”
SERAP maintained that any move to regulate social media would be inconsistent and incompatible with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations.
SERAP further stated that the proposed bill raises serious concerns about the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and would lead to “digital siege.”
The letter, read in part, “Rather than rushing to pass the social media regulation bill, the National Assembly should encourage the Federal Government to maximize opportunities around social media access, and address the growing social and economic inequalities in the country.”
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are immediately taken upon the receipt and/or publication of this letter. SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions against the National Assembly and the Federal Government if the social media regulation bill is ever passed into law.”
“We urge you to request the administration of President Bola Tinubu to publish the details of any ongoing discussion and engagement with Google, YouTube, TikTok and other social media companies.”
“The reintroduction of the social media regulation bill would lead to deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and carry major economic costs for all sectors, as well as exacerbate social and economic inequalities.”
“It would effectively deepen digital divides in the country and seriously undermine the Tinubu administration’s expressed commitment to develop this sector.”
“Under international law, all restrictions on the operation of social media companies and other intermediaries must comply with the requirements of legality, legitimacy and necessity.”
“The regulation of social media may be incompatible with the services of major social media and private messaging intermediaries, negatively impacting the free flow of information and ideas, and affecting economic and social activities.”
“The National Assembly should put pressure on the Federal Government to comply with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 and the country’s international human rights obligations regarding the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and participation.”
“Access to social media is widely recognized as an indispensable enabler of a broad range of human rights. It is central to freedom of expression and the realization of many other human rights including education, freedom of association and assembly, access to information, and participation.”
“The Federal Government has the legal obligations to promote and facilitate the enjoyment of human rights, and to take all steps necessary to ensure that all individuals have meaningful access to social media. The authorities should refrain from unduly interfering with access to digital communications platforms.”
“If the 2023 social media regulation bill which has reportedly passed the first reading before the National Assembly is the same as the 2019 bill, it would impose disproportionate penalties on Nigerians solely for exercising their human rights.”
“According to our information, the newly reintroduced social media regulation bill seems to be the replica of the version of the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019, with provisions empowering the authorities to unilaterally order the shutdown of the internet.”
“A similar bill to regulate social media was considered by the National Assembly in 2015 but failed to pass into law after public outcry.”