Despite the failure of several attempts to regulate social media, Nigeria’s government remains determined to root out what it describes as ongoing misuse and abuse.
Recent statements by Nigerian Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, and the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, reflect the official stance.
Lawan said social media platforms are often used to disseminate disinformation and make leadership more challenging.
During a lecture at the National Defence College on Tuesday, Lawan said: “Throughout history, no set of leaders ever faced the kind of challenges that leadership faces in today’s world because of the existence of social media. Sometimes, fake or distorted information is passed that costs leadership a lot of efforts to put things straight and this is a serious challenge for all leaders across the world today.”
Days earlier Keyamo posted a tweet asking why governments around the world have not “passed laws or taken some other actions to ensure social media companies take full responsibility for allowing false & uncensored materials on their platforms.”
He believes user accounts should be linked to national ID as recorded in the government database to avoid anonymity.
In December 2015, the Frivolous Petitions Bill, which proposed jail time and a US$10,000 fine for contravening social media posts, was withdrawn six months later after a major backlash.
It was the same for the Anti-social Media Bill proposed in November 2019. The Bill was discussed in the Senate and even passed a second reading, but was also eventually dropped.
Subsequently, the widely-publicised #EndSARS protests in 2020 was met with calls by government representatives, including the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed and several state governors, for sterner regulation of social media.
This week Facebook removed the page of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, for what the social media network described as “repeated posting of content that violated our rules on coordinating harm and hate speech.”
Kanu’s removal triggered fierce anti-government debates online among members and sympathisers of cause, as well as freedom of speech advocates.
There is speculation this latest development could result in fresh social media regulation legislation.