Why Social Media Bill Should Be Rejected – SERAP Tells Akpabio, Abbas

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has stated why the recently reintroduced social media bill should be rejected by Senate President Godswill Akpabio and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas.

Expressing its disapproval in a statement by the group’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, SERAP pointed out that the passage of the bill “would unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression and privacy”.

It called on President Bola Tinubu to halt attempts to compel tech companies like Google and YouTube to restrict such “fundamental human rights”.

“The National Broadcasting Commission 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 14 October 2023, and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “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.

“The proposed bill raises serious concerns about the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and would lead to digital siege.

“Rather than rushing to pass the social media regulation bill, the National Assembly should encourage the Federal Government to maximise 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.

“The regulation of social media may be incompatible with the services of major social media and private messaging intermediaries, negatively impacting the free flow of information and ideas, and affecting economic and social activities,” the statement partly reads.