The new move to regulate social media platforms in Nigeria | Dailytrust

The new move to regulate social media platforms in Nigeria

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami

The federal government through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on Monday issued a new internet code entitled a “Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria’’ which aims to standardise, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all Information Technology (IT) practices in Nigeria.

NITDA in a statement signed by its spokesperson Hadiza Umar said it is mandated by Section 6 of the NITDA Act 2007, to standardize, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all Information Technology (IT) practices in Nigeria, and in accordance with these mandates, President Muhammadu Buhari, had directed the agency to develop a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries (Online Platforms), in collaboration with relevant regulatory agencies and stakeholders. 

In line with the directive, the statement said, NITDA presented to the public a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries for further review and input. According to the government, the code of practice is aimed at protecting fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.

“This is in line with international best practices as obtainable in democratic nations such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, European Union and United Nations.

“The code of practice was developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from interactive computer service platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google and Tik Tok amongst others. Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area were consulted such as civil society organizations and expert groups. The results of this consultations were duly incorporated into the Draft Code of Practice’’, it said.

NITDA said the new global reality is that the activities conducted on these online platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interactions, 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, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.

Additionally, it said the code of practice sets out procedures to safeguard the security and welfare of Nigerians while interacting on these platforms. It aims to demand accountability from online platforms regarding unlawful and harmful contents on their platforms. Furthermore, it establishes a robust framework for collaborative efforts to protect Nigerians against online harms, such as hate speech, cyber-bullying, as well as disinformation and/or misinformation. 

Similarly, to ensure compliance with the code of practice, NITDA has notifed all interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries operating in the country  that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set out conditions for operating in the country.

It said: “These conditions address issues around legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws. The conditions are as follows: Establish a legal entity i.e., register with 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 contents and unethical behaviour on their platform; and 

“Provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and deleting any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.’’

NITDA said the Draft Code of Practice is available on its website via for review and comments from the public.

However, the federal government reiterated its commitment towards ensuring Nigeria fully harnesses the potentials of the digital economy and safeguard the security and interest of its citizens in the digital ecosystem.

Continued on

Though Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other social media giants are based in the United States, where they have faced relatively little government oversight, their reach extends around the world, influencing a wide spectrum of audiences in a variety of ways.

A Northeastern survey of four diverse democracies found that people in other countries differ from Americans when it comes to opinions as to how social media companies should be regulated, with respondents in the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Mexico favouring stricter content moderation than people in the US—especially in cases that cause harm or distress.

From the reactions by Nigerians to previous attempts by the Nigerian government to regulate the social media, it seems this new direction may not go down well with them.  

But governments around the world have debated regulations to curb the misinformation and hate speech that have proliferated the social media. A study led by Northeastern journalism faculty members, John Wihbey and Myojung Chung, compared public opinion across four nations – America, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Mexico – on issues of online censorship, free speech, and social-media regulation.

The study affirms the importance of developing a coherent global policy—one that tailors content to meet the demands and expectations of a variety of countries and cultures.

“These global tech companies have rolled out products and services in ways that have outstripped their ability to resource them properly,” says Wihbey, an associate professor who heads Northeastern’s graduate programmes in journalism and media innovation.

Wihbey notes that many of the social platforms—including Meta (the new parent company of Facebook), Apple, Google, Reddit and Twitter—have endorsed the Santa Clara Principles, a 2018 creation by human-rights organisations, advocates and academic experts that urged the online companies to “take into consideration the diversity of cultures and contexts in which their platforms and services are available and used.”

Facebook originally was designed for an American audience. Though it has improved its efforts in some countries, says Wihbey, in many others the company has yet to develop a proficiency for local culture or language—thereby hindering moderators’ ability to identify harmful content based on local standards.

“There are still whole cultures where they don’t have language expertise,” Wihbey says of Facebook. “Their classifiers and algorithms aren’t trained to recognize things.”

Each democratic country applies its values in nuanced ways, the study found. In South Korea, 84% of respondents said the government should do more to prohibit misinformation. Fewer  than 62% of people in the US agreed.

“South Korea is a collectivistic country,” says Chung, an assistant professor of journalism and media advocacy. She notes that people in her homeland of South Korea tend to be highly supportive of free speech while also believing in the moderation of social media when the content is doing harm.

“When you’re looking into these differences, you have to consider not only the political system but also the culture,” Chung says.

All four democracies are suffering from political divisions that have been fed by social-media misinformation. Though the US lags far behind the European Union in terms of regulating Facebook and other tech behemoths, the need for social-media governance has emerged as a rare issue of agreement for both Republicans and Democrats.

But Americans continue to be international outliers when it comes to reining in social media. A minority of people in the US (42%) agreed that governments should temporarily block entire social apps or websites that persistently fail to remove misinformation —compared to majorities in Mexico (71%), South Korea (61%), and the UK (59%). 

“To me, the most surprising finding was the difference between the US and the other three countries,” Chung says. “I expected the difference to be subtle rather than this clear.”

The study, a joint paper between the College of Arts, Media and Design and the Ethics Institute, was also co-authored by Northeastern graduate students Garrett Morrow, Yushu Tian, Lauren Vitacco, Daniela Rincon Reyes, and Melissa Clavijo.

The Northeastern group plans to explore the data to help explain why approaches to social media differ around the world.

“Even in countries with relatively similar political structures, there are different needs and cultural values,” Wihbey says. “The companies need to think carefully about resourcing this properly if they’re going to do global business.”

From this study, it may be gleaned that the new attempt by Nigeria’s government to regulate the social media isn’t entirely bad; but experts like Wihbey and Chung global best practice must be adhered to in order to differentiate the regulation from gagging free speech of the citizens.


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