OrderPaperToday – The Senate on Wednesday passed the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation, popularly known as Social Media Bill, through second reading.
Its sponsor, Senator Sani Musa, in the lead debate, argued that the bill seeks to curb the spread of fake news.
Since its first reading, the general public and civil society groups have kicked against for fear that it will limit freedom of expression and speech.
The bill was forwarded to the Committee on Judiciary to revert back in four weeks.
Musa maintained in his debate that the bill is not an attempt to impede free speech.
He explained that “it is rather an opportunity to address the growing trends which, if left unchecked, can cause serious damage in our polity and disrupt peaceful existence
“While the internet has democratised information, the fact remains that it has also been a weapon in the process, which is why governments across the world are trying to mitigate the risks associated with information transmission via internet by monitoring abuse and deliberate misconducts.”
According to him, one of the disadvantages of the internet is the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users.
He continued, “Motivated by geo-political interest and identity politics, state and non- state actors use internet to discredit government, misinform people and turn one group against the other.
“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and his purported replacement by one Jibril of Sudan, among others, are things that threaten the peace, security and harmony of our people.
“Online accounts run by human trolls have been used to rapidly spread falsehood.
“For media outlets, it involves publishing a story with false contents that attracts users, benefits advertisers.”
The bill which contains 36 clauses imposes penalty on defaulters of up to N300,000 for individuals, up to N10 million for corporate organisations and imprisonment of up to 3 years or both.
“It also issues guidelines for internet intermediaries and providers of mass media services and sanctions for offenders,” the lawmaker said.
Senators Elisha Abbo, Abba Moro and Ibrahim Gobir expressed their full support for the bill.
Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, on the other hand, criticised the bill.
He said, “I not only oppose this bill, I condemn it in its entirety. Based on our constituion, there is freedom of information and freedom of speech.
There is a Cyber Crime Act that deals with this issue. There are also laws that deals with false information, libel, slander and so on.
“Yes, fake news has done a lot in America and other countries but they have not brought any law to deal with it. I, therefore, oppose this bill.”