Social Media Regulatory Policy and the inflexible freedom of expression in Nigeria’s social media space
How it all started:
On the 5th of June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria banned the operation of Twitter on the basis of Twitter deleting and suspending the account of President Muhammadu Buhari for a post warning the people in the southeastern region of a civil war repetition due to the insurgency in the state. Despite protests from social media influencers and human right activist likewise shutting out over 200 million people, according to dw.com ; the ban lasted for 8 months before it was lifted in January 2022. According to the Guardian, United Kingdom, some of the conditions for lifting the ban include the registration of twitter with the corporate affairs commission as a business unit and the management of prohibited publications according to Nigerian law.
The Aftermath of the ban and the Pursuit for Social Media Regulation:
The Federal Government, grieved by the domination of the social media space during the EndSars Protest, decided to embark on social media regulation. The Federal Government claimed that the decision was to tackle the blackmail and false information against the Federal Government of Nigeria. In June 2022, according to techcabal, the National Information Technology Development Agency announced that the Nigerian Government has set out plans in January to regulate its social media space in Nigeria with a new code of practice. The code of practice is a drafted document for Internet Intermediaries and Interactive Computer Service Platform by the National Information Technology Development Agency in alliance with the Nigerian Communication and the National Broadcasting Commission in anticipation the regulate the content being uploaded or shared on the technological and electronic medium. The document stated the prohibited materials that are not permitted and the obligations and restrictions placed on the medium of the information being shared.
The Effect of the Code of Practice for Regulation:
The quest to regulate raises a question of safety for social media companies and digital companies in Nigeria. Tech firms are not left out of the reality of them battling with the Federal Government over the restriction of sharing content and being monitored by the Government.
Social Media Regulation was not implemented to favour the digital space in the country; the anticipation to restrict the content shared on every technological and electronic medium is observed as a threat to the free press and freedom of expression in Nigeria. Considering the restriction, it was seen as a human right violation and a threat to privacy.
The decision by the National Information Technology Development Agency to regulate content was seen as a passive decision without consultation, which is similar to the ban. There are different views to the code of practice yet the majority is not in support of the restrictions that are placed on content shared on each medium. The social media space is seen as a place to express their opinion; restricting them from sharing their thought, content or action is similar to being caged by law or order, which is similar to the military approach, which has a negative effect on the digital economy in Nigeria.
The code of practice affects the digital space negatively, rendering the industry ineffective when each activity is being restricted.
Social Media Space, Digital Marketing Expert and Tech firm stand a risk of losing their space with the regulatory policy in place. Irrespective of the intention, the Federal Government must come to terms with a digital expert rather than go its own way with no further consultation.