Nigeria’s internet regulator, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has on Monday announced plans by the federal government to regulate social media apps in the country including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Google, TikTok, etc. 

Driving the news 
In a press draft released on NITDA’s website and social media pages, the aim of the conditions of operation is to protect the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and foreigners in the country. And also, to “define guidelines for interaction on the digital ecosystem.”

Background 
The Nigerian government has for years flirted with regulating social media applications in the country based on the opinion that the activities on digital platforms negatively influence the society. This seemed like a mere threat until last year, June 2021, FG ordered the suspension of Twitter (a microblogging app) in the country until the American company met certain demands.

  • Some conditions were payment of tax in the country, cooperating with the Nigerian government to take down harmful tweets and setting up a legal entity in the country in the first half of this year.

Keynote from the new code of operation 
The platforms would remove unlawful or harmful content uploaded on a platform within 24 hours. Platforms operating in Nigeria must also ensure that there is no harmful content uploaded on their site. 

  • Online platforms must provide a channel for complaints. And these channels must have a tracking number attached to it as well as sufficient information on how they resolved the complaints by the user. 
  • Platforms must file a detailed yearly report of its operation, including the number of users (active and non-active), the number of complaints received, unresolved issues, content removed from the platform, etc.
  • A large platform must register with the designated authorities, own a physical office in Nigeria, and have a liaison officer.
  • There will be no dissemination of user information from any platform without a court order stating the exact information needed by the platform. 
  • The platforms must comply with Nigerian laws and not modify their platform to contradict the country’s application or enforcement of the rule of law. 
  • Platforms must provide simple terms of service and how users can access it.
  • The platforms now have a responsibility of educating its users on misinformation and how to verify their contents. 

What you should know 

  • NITDA is a Nigerian operator responsible for developing and regulating Information Technology in the country. 
  • In the NITDA Act of 2007, non-compliance of its set regulations is a breach of the provisions punishable accordingly. 
  • For a corporate body who commits an offence under the Act and no specific penalty is assigned, the following stands: “for a first offence, to a fine of N 200,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of 1 year or to both such fine and imprisonment; and for a second and subsequent offence, to a fine of N 500,000.00 or to imprisonment for a term of 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
  • “The institution of proceedings or imposition of a penalty under this Act shall not relieve a body corporate from liability to pay to the Federal Inland Revenue Service such levy or tax which may become due under this Act.”
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