By Blessing Olaifa (TheNation)
Microblogging agencies operating in the country have been given an operating code.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others were handed the code by the Nigeria National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The code was formulated as part of the agreement after the face-off between Twitter and the Federal Government.
The code also contains terms to operations for their operations as Interactive Computer Service Platforms and Internet Intermediaries.
The conditions include registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the appointment of a country representative and compliance with all tax obligations.
The code and conditions were released by the Nigeria National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The code was necessitated by the Federal Government/Twitter faceoff over a year ago.
The row began when Twitter deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the Southeast. Buhari had in the tweet, said that separatist agitators would be treated in the language they understand.
The government took offence at Twitter’s actions and accused Twitter of double standards. It said that the same platform was being used by IPOB to cause disaffection amongst the people and abuse its officials.
The government consequently suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria. Following leading public outcry, the government opened negotiations with the microblogging platform and promised to come up with a code to guide the operations of such sites in the country.
NITDA, in a statement by its Head of Corporate Communications and External Relations, Hadiza Umar, explained that rule was issued in line with Section 6 of the NITDA Act 2007.
The section empowers the agency to standardise, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all Information Technology (IT) practices in the country.
The agency explained that the draft code is available on https://nitda.gov.ng/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Code-of-Practice.pdf for review and comments from the public.
The code aims at:
*protecting fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as defining guidelines for interacting in the digital ecosystem.
*recalibrating the relationship of online platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for the country while promoting a sustainable digital economy.
*Safeguarding 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.
* protecting Nigerians against online harms such as hate speech, cyber-bullying as well as disinformation and/or misinformation.
* making the platforms delete any information that violates Nigerian laws within an agreed time
The code also requires micro-blogging platforms operating in Nigeria to provide information to the government on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks
Besides, the code outlines the legal basis for the operations of the platforms operating in the country and methods for determining their revenues/ accruals in order to enable the government to know the exact taxes to be paid by them.
The statement by the NITDA boss reads in part:” 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 States, 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 with inputs from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok, amongst others.
”The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these online platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction, and economic choices.
”The Code is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of online platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for our nation while promoting a sustainable digital economy.
”Additionally, the Code 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 sites
”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; and 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 delete any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.
“The Federal Government wishes to reiterate its commitment towards ensuring Nigeria fully harnesses the potential of the Digital Economy and safeguards the security and interest of its citizens in the digital ecosystem.”