About three years after Nigeria’s National Assembly attempted to pass a social media bill, aimed to regulate what people post and how they interact on social media platforms, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has issued a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.
A draft signed by Mrs. Hadiza Umar, Head Corporate Affairs and External Relationship, NITDA, said 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.
The regulatory agency outlined various dos and don’ts for the Nigerian digital ecosystem, especially platforms having more than 100,000 users. The platforms are by the Code, saddled with the responsibility to do the following among others:
Registration for Tekedia Mini-MBA edition 9 (Sep 12- Dec 3 2022) has started. Register here. Cost is N60,000 or $140 for the 12-week program.
- Be incorporated in Nigeria.
- Have a physical contact address in Nigeria, details of which shall be available on their website or Platform.
- Appoint a Liaison Officer who shall serve as a communication channel between the government and the Platform.
- Provide the necessary human supervision to review and improve the use of automated tools to strengthen accuracy and fairness, checkmate bias and discrimination to ensure freedom of expression and privacy of users.
- On demand, furnish a user, or authorized government agency with information on: a) reason behind popular online content demand and the factor or figure behind the influence. b) why users get specific information on their timelines.
- Provide users or authorized government agency, upon request, with report of due process on their activities, and/or open investigation to ensure individuals are not targeted.
“A Platform shall not continue to keep prohibited materials or make them available for access when they are informed of such [prohibited] materials. Prohibited material is that which is objectionable on the grounds of public interest, morality, order, security, peace, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Nigerian laws,” the Code says.
Government’s move to regulate social media in 2019 met a heavy pushback from civil rights organizations and members of the public as it was seen as an attempt to gag the civic space. However, the government has tried to use its agencies like the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to enact the regulatory rules.
NITDA’s Code has come months after the federal government lifted its four-month ban on Twitter. It was a controversial decision that drew condemnation globally. The government had claimed that Twitter agreed to its terms and conditions that include setting up an office in Nigeria and paying taxes. But the said agreement is yet to materialize months after.
Like the 2019 social media bill, the NITDA Code is already riling up the civic space that has described it as an attempt to censor social media through the back door, especially as the 2023 general elections draw 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 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, 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, NITDA wishes to present to the Public a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries for further review and input. 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 State 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.
The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these Online Platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction, and economic choices. Hence, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of Online Platforms with Nigerians in order to maximize mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.
Additionally, 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 also wishes to notify all Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries operating in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set out conditions for operating in the country. 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.
The Draft Code of Practice is available on the NITDA website for review and comments from the public.
The Federal Government wishes to reiterate its commitment towards ensuring Nigeria fully harness the potentials of the Digital Economy and safeguard the security and interest of its citizens in the digital ecosystem.