Unfortunately, the anti-social media bill titled Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132), has gone through a second reading in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, making it more likely to be passed. The government is desperate to clamp down on all forms of criticisms on social media, particularly twitter and Facebook. Both platforms that have been used as tool to spread the discussions on government accountability and responsibility in the last few years.
Individual defaulters of the new law will be given a fine of up to N300,000 or three years imprisonment while corporate organizations are faced with a fine of N10 million.
While we firmly stand against the blatant infringement on our fundamental human rights, let us go back and find out incidents that have directly or indirectly instigated this appalling bill
No doubt, social media has been a thorn in the flesh of this administration. The Buhari led administration has faced unending criticism over their performance and policies, and the majority of this criticisms come from social media. The government has continuously shied away from accountability and frowned upon any form of rebuke, especially from social media. The bill is aimed at muting the populace and totally shutting up any form of disapproval.
Tinubu Bullion van saga
On the eve of the 2019 general elections, social media went into a frenzy over pictures of bullion vans, supposedly filled with money entering the residence of former governor and political godfather Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Many found this disturbing and called for an investigation by the EFCC, eventually nothing came out of the incident
Sen Sani’s INEC contract
Earlier this year it was revealed that senator Sani Musa, the sponsor of the bill, had been a contractor for INEC since 2011, supplying materials used for printing electoral materials. This revelation drew outrage on social media because despite his candidacy in the 2019 senatorial elections, the contract with INEC was still on. Many called for his disqualification as it was thought that his relationship with the electoral body will give him an advantage.
Sen. Elisha Abbo and his sex store episode
In June, CCTV footage of Adamawa North senator Elisha Abbo, slapping and brutalizing a young woman in an Abuja sex toy store. While he was eventually let off the hook unpunished, the video footage went viral on social media, particularly twitter and outrage poured.
No wonder he is a strong supporter of the bill, in his words, he supports the bill “holistically”
Nowhere to hide
With social media, and the ability for news to go viral in minutes, the senators pushing for the social media bill know that misadventures and goofs can no longer be kept secrete. Hence, in order to take away prying eyes from their grubby activities, the law makers have resulted to censoring the social media and its use.