About three years after Nigeria’s National Assembly attempted to pass a Social Media Bill aimed at regulating what people post and how they interact on social media platforms, the National People’s Development Agency Information Technology (NITDA) has published a Code of Practice for Interactive IT Service Platforms. /Internet Intermediaries and Terms of Operation in Nigeria.
A draft signed by Ms. Hadiza Umar, Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, NITDA, said the code of practice aims to protect the basic human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as set out guidelines for interacting on digital. ecosystem.
The regulatory agency outlined various do’s and don’ts for the Nigerian digital ecosystem, especially platforms with more than 100,000 users. The platforms are, according to the Code, responsible for doing the following, among others:
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- Be incorporated in Nigeria.
- Have a physical contact address in Nigeria, details of which will be available on their website or platform.
- Appoint a liaison officer who will act as a communication channel between the government and the platform.
- Provide the necessary human oversight to review and improve the use of automated tools to enhance accuracy and fairness, checkmate bias, and discrimination to ensure free speech and user privacy .
- Upon request, provide a user or an authorized government agency with information about: a) the reason for requesting popular online content and the factor or figure behind the influence. b) why users get specific information about their calendars.
- Provide users or the authorized government agency, upon request, with a due process report on their activities and/or initiate an investigation to ensure individuals are not being targeted.
“A platform must not continue to retain prohibited material or make it accessible when notified.” [prohibited] materials. Prohibited material is that which is objectionable on grounds of public interest, morals, order, security, peace, or which is otherwise prohibited by applicable Nigerian laws,” the Code states.
The government’s move to regulate social media in 2019 was met with heavy pushback from civil rights organizations and members of the public as it was seen as an attempt to gag civic space. However, the government tried to use its agencies like the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to promulgate regulatory rules.
The NITDA code came months after the federal government survey his four months to forbid on Twitter. It was a controversial decision that was condemned around the world. The government had claimed that Twitter had agreed to its terms and conditions, including establishing an office in Nigeria and paying taxes. But the said agreement must still materialize months later.
Like the Social Media Bill of 2019, the NITDA code is already stirring civic space who have described it as a backdoor attempt to censor social media, especially as the 2023 general election draws near. .
Read NITDA’s statement on the code below:
The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is mandated by Section 6 of the NITDA Act of 2007 to standardize, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all information technology (IT) practices in Nigeria. In accordance with its mandates, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has instructed the Agency to develop a code of practice for Internet Intermediate/Interactive Computing Service Platforms (Online Platforms), in collaboration with regulations and relevant stakeholders.
In accordance with the directive, NITDA wishes to present a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Services/Internet Intermediate Platforms to the public for further review and comment. The code of practice aims to protect the basic human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as set out guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem. This is in line with international best practices available in democratic countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations.
The Code of Practice has been developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), along with input from interactive IT service platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram , Google and Tik Tok, among others. . Other relevant stakeholders with particular knowledge in this area were consulted, such as civil society organizations and expert groups. The results of these consultations have been duly incorporated into the draft code of practice.
The new global reality is that the activities carried out on these online platforms have a huge influence on our society, our social interactions and our economic choices. Therefore, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of online platforms with Nigerians to maximize mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.
Additionally, the code of practice sets out procedures to protect the safety and well-being of Nigerians while interacting on these platforms. It aims to hold online platforms accountable for illegal and harmful content on their platforms. Furthermore, it establishes a strong framework for collaborative efforts to protect Nigerians from harm online, such as hate speech, cyber-harassment, as well as disinformation and/or misinformation.
Similarly, to ensure compliance with the Code of Practice, NITDA also wishes to inform all Interactive Computer Services Platforms/Internet Intermediaries operating in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set the conditions for operating in the country. These Terms deal with matters relating to legal registration of transactions, taxation and the management of prohibited publications under Nigerian laws. The conditions are as follows:
- Establish a legal entity, i.e. register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC);
- Appoint a designated national representative to interface with the Nigerian authorities;
- Comply with all regulatory requirements after establishing a legal presence;
- Comply with all tax obligations applicable to its operations under Nigerian law;
- Provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid the publication of prohibited content and unethical behavior on their platform; and
- Provide information to authorities about harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups and other coordinated disinformation networks and remove any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed timeframe.
The draft code of practice is available on the NITDA website for public review and comment.
The Federal Government wishes to reiterate its commitment to ensure that Nigeria fully harnesses the potential of the digital economy and safeguards the security and interest of its citizens in the digital ecosystem.