THE Federal Government has commenced moves to regulate Internet multinational companies including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram (all owned by Meta), Twitter, Google and TikTok.
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) released a draft bill that seeks to regulate the companies on Monday evening. The draft legislation was released in a statement posted on the agency’s website and Twitter page.
The Federal Government lifted the ban on Twitter six months after it first declared a crackdown on the social media giant in the country.
One of the conditions for lifting the ban includes paying taxes locally and cooperating with the Nigerian government to regulate content and harmful tweets.
Midway through the year, it appears that none of the conditions has been met yet.
However, the Federal Government is ready to push its demands and extend the requirements to other internet firms including Meta-owned platforms like Facebook and Google
The draft bill was titled “Code of practice for interactive computer service platform/internet intermediaries”.
Hadiza Umar, NITDA’S head of corporate affairs, in the press statement said the draft bill is geared towards “protecting fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country” as well as “define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.”
The conditions in the draft bill include
- Establish a legal entity; in other words, register with the country’s Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
- Appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities.
- Abide by all regulatory demands after establishing a legal presence.
- Comply with all applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.
- Provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited content[s] and unethical behaviour on their platform.
- Provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and delete any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.
“The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these online platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction and economic choices.
“Hence, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of online platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for our nation,” the statement statement said.
NITDA said it formulated the draft bill after a presidential directive.
The agency also said it was collaborating with Nigeria’s communications and broadcasting regulatory bodies and welcomed input from the Internet companies that will be affected by the legislation.
The agency said the draft is open to review and comments from the public.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.