Social media has been one of the most powerful tools in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has helped keep us informed about what’s going on, but for the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, it’s been vital.
While the Nigerian government claims to accept protesters’ demands against police brutality, they don’t like what’s been put out to the public. So much so that they have been trying to shut social media down to avoid spreading “fake news” reports that may “destabilize” Nigeria.
In a recent media briefing Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, said, ”We need a technology to shut down social media at will when it becomes a menace to the country’s security.” Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time there’s been an attempt to regulate the internet and social media.
The Nigerian government attempted this in December 2015, proposing a “frivolous petitions” bill which would give citizens jail time and a $10,000 fine for social media posts that were found to be in contravention of the proposed law. According to Quartz, the bill was withdrawn six months later after much public criticism.
Nigerian government officials are in the process of resurrecting two existing bill proposals that have been in the works with the country’s lawmakers. Those bills are the ”Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill” and the “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill, ” aka the social media bill.
Under the social media bill, officials would cut off internet access and or block social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter at their liking. Gbenga Sesan, a digital rights activist, spoke about how the bills seek to “address the twin issues of disinformation and dangerous speech, even though both target social media.” Gbenga said. ”The Nigerian government is often too lazy to change tactic…so my suspicion is that those two bills will make their way back to the top of the National Assembly’s priority list.”
Digital media rights advocates believe this new bill attempts to stifle any online expression.
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