In November 2019 Senator Mohammed Sani Musa introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (“the Social Media Bill”). Senator Musa contends that the spread of false news is undermining social cohesion.
The Social Media Bill seeks to sanction online communication which is “likely to be prejudicial to national security” or “which may limit public confidence”. Perpetrators could face up to 3 years in prison or a fine of 300 000 Naira (R12 660).
The Bill has not been well received by civil society or the citizenry of Nigeria. Amnesty International Nigeria has called for the Bill to be removed with Programmes Manager, Seun Bakare, urging Nigerian lawmakers to withdraw the Bill which is open to vague and broad interpretations.
The Bill is controversial among several high-ranking religious officials as well. Mathew Hassan Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese stated that “...the ultimate goal of the Bill is not to punish those that offend but those who offend the Government”.
The Bill passed its second reading in Parliament on 20 November 2019. At the time of writing there is no date confirmed for third reading and as such there is no certainty on when or even if the Bill will become law.
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