The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Senate President, Mr Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Tajudeen Abbas “to reject the recently reintroduced social media regulation bill which if passed would unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression and privacy”.
SERAP urged them to “request the administration of President Bola Tinubu to drop any ongoing efforts to put pressure on Google, YouTube, TikTok and other social media companies to unduly restrict these fundamental human rights”. SERAP said the bill would “criminalize the legitimate and lawful exercise of human rights”. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) last week reportedly stated that “one of Nigeria’s major problems now is social media”, and described social media as “a monster”.
In the letter dated October 14, 2023, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The social media is neither Nigeria’s problem nor a monster. Any regulation of it would have arbitrary and excessive effects, and cause incalculable damage, both in material and human rights terms.” “Any move to regulate social media would be inconsistent and incompatible with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations,” it said.
SERAP said that the proposed bill “raises serious concerns about the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and would lead to digital siege”. The letter, read in part, “Rather than rushing to pass the social media regulation bill, the National Assembly should encourage the Federal Government to maximize opportunities around social media access and address the growing social and economic inequalities in the country.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are immediately taken upon the receipt and/or publication of this letter. SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions against the National Assembly and the Federal Government if the social media regulation bill is ever passed into law.
“We urge you to request the administration of President Bola Tinubu to publish the details of any ongoing discussion and engagement with Google, YouTube, TikTok and other social media companies.
“The reintroduction of the social media regulation bill would lead to deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and carry major economic costs for all sectors, as well as exacerbate social and economic inequalities. “It would effectively deepen digital divides in the country and seriously undermine the Tinubu administration’s expressed commitment to develop this sector.
“Under international law, all restrictions on the operation of social media companies and other intermediaries must comply with the requirements of legality, legitimacy and necessity.” It urged the National Assembly to put pressure on the Federal Government to “comply with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 and the country’s international human rights obligations regarding the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and participation”. “A similar bill to regulate social media was considered by the National Assembly in 2015 but failed to pass into law after public outcry.”