Social media bill: a brief glimpse into it


In recent times, senators of the 9th national assembly have been seen to be going back and forth bills that aim to curtail the public opinions, comments and speeches of Nigerians

For purposes of clarity, it’s important to state that there are actually two bills out there agitating the minds of social media users in Nigeria at the moment.

There is the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ and the ‘Social Media Bill’. Both bills are not one and the same, even though they have been conflated in discourses on the internet.

The Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill is the handwork of Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Deputy Chief Whip), while the social media bill, a.k.a ‘Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill’ is being championed by Sen. Mohammed Sani Musa.

The social media bill passed the second reading on the floor of the senate on Wednesday, November 20, 2019; which means it’s well on its way to becoming law, seeing as it is only one more reading and assent by the executive, away.

Musa says his bill will not gag social media users should it become law as is being propagated. He also says his piece of legislation only seeks to check the spread of fake news and falsehood.

He cites the ‘Jubril from Sudan’ saga and tale as one reason why he’s doing this.

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

The Nigerian Senate during plenary

Musa also lamented that troll or bot accounts have been used to rapidly spread falsehood across Nigeria in a manner that now threatens national security.

If the bill becomes an Act, anyone found guilty will pay a fine of N300,000 and corporate bodies who willfully promote and dispense fake news or falsehood deemed to threaten national security, will pay a fine of N10 million.

Senators Ibrahim Gobir, Abba Moro and Elisha Abbo vehemently supported the bill during plenary this week.

Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu East) was the only senator who opposed the bill on the floor of parliament when it came up for debate.

According to Nnamani, the bill is completely unnecessary because some of its provisions have been taken care of in the Cyber Crime Act signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

”Yes, fake news has done a lot in America and other countries but they have not brought any law to deal with it. I, therefore, oppose this bill,” Nnamani said.

After listening to both sides of the argument, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, put the debate to a voice vote. Majority of the senators went with Musa.

Lawan would then refer the bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights which will conduct a public hearing with stakeholders and report back after four weeks.

As a consequence of this development, Nigerians have shown their displeasure via various social media platforms, many are of the opinion that the Devil is in the details; and that the eventual passing of the bill into law would herald dark times for Nigerians as concerning the right to speak freely.

The names and contact details of all the 109 senators have also been published and the legislators are being barraged with phone calls and text messages, all in a bid to prevent the bill from seeing the light of day.

Culled from

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