Sani Musa, the senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, who reintroduced the “social media bill” at the Senate, has according to Punch tried to reassure us that the bill is aimed at guiding users and not gag the media in Nigeria.
Musa, who says he has a “passion for IT,” said this after the bill, “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019,” passed its first reading on the floor.
The bill, if passed, could have social media users who share false information sentenced to prison for 3 years, or asked to pay a fine of ₦150,000.
And it doesn’t end there.
Corporate organisations who “refuse to block false information” after they have been alerted by a regulating agency could be fined up to ₦5 million or ₦10 million.
And it goes on:
Telecommunication agencies, too, could face yet-to-be-determined sanctions if they “allow their network to be used to disseminate false information.”
Musa, speaking to journalists after reintroducing the bill, said:
I have a passion for IT and I know what it takes to disseminate your information, it is at the speed of light.
Some journalists will look at this legislation as if we are trying to bring a law that will gag the social media or the right to free press. It is a legislation that will guide how we can tolerate our activities on social media.
False information has been disseminated so many times and they have caused so much chaos in different parts of the world. I felt we need it in this country. If countries like Philippines, Singapore, Italy, Malaysia, Australia, France, Indonesia, Egypt are attempting to control social media to prevent the spread of false information, what stops us from doing it? There has never been a time when Nigeria has been very fragile in terms of its unity than this period.
It (social media bill) is not to stop people from going online to do whatever they feel is legitimate. What is wrong is for you to use the medium to document information that you know is false, just because you want to achieve your desirable interest.