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(Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images)

#SayNoToSocialMediaBill: Nigerians Protest Proposed Law Allowing Government to Block the Internet

Nigerians are saying no to the 'Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill' that they say will give the government the power to silence them.

A bill that could limit democratic expression amongst social media users in Nigeria, has been proposed in the senate for the second time this year, Techcabal reports. Several Nigerians are now speaking out against it.

The bill, called the "Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019 (SB 132)," would essentially allow the government to shutdown the internet whenever it sees fit. It was proposed by Senator Muhammadu Sani Musa of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who claimed that the measure was necessary to prevent the spread of "hate speech" and extremist ideologies through online channels. "Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries are using internet falsehood to surreptitiously promote their causes, as we have seen in Nigeria with the insurgency of Boko haram," he said.

A clip of Senator Elisha Abbo another vocal supporter of the bill, who is currently under investigation for an alleged assault after being caught on video slapping a woman at a sex shop in July—shows him passionately defending the bill on the floor and condemning what he calls "fake news" from being spread to different countries. "It is a cancer waiting to consume all of us," said Abbo.

A similar bill was proposed back in 2015, but was widely criticized and never passed.


If the law were to pass, those who violate it would be penalized with a fine of up to N300,000 ($828) or three years imprisonment. While corporate organizations would be fined N10 million ($276,103).

Despite the claims of politicians, the proposed bill is being seen as a hinderance to free speech and a move in line with that of a totalitarian government, as it would give the government free will to block access to the internet if it finds a user expressing views outside of what it deems appropriate. For many, it seems like an attempt to silence any form of political dissent or dialogue that the government might find unfavorable. Questions have also arisen around its applicability and the arbitrary standards that might be employed to determine what constitutes fake news.

The widely followed advocacy page Enough Is Enough Nigeria, pointed out that the bill appears to be a replica of Singapore's "Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act" that was passed June of this year.

Several other African nations have previously established laws that impede on their citizens use of social media—pointing to growing instances of government censorship across the continent. Uganda passed its controversial social media tax last year, while government-initiated internet shutdowns have occurred at various times in several countries including Cameroon, Tanzania, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and DRC—particularly during election periods.

Censorship is a growing issue in Nigeria, where reports of advocates, human rights activists and journalists—including Sahara Reporters founder Omoyele Sowerebeing jailed continue to emerge. Amnesty International has declared several of them "Prisoners of Conscience."

Many Nigerians view social media as one of the only channels they have left to speak out openly against corrupt governance, social inequality and other widespread injustices. "We have sufficient cause to believe that this bill contains elements that may affect the right to free expression of internet users in Nigeria," said Nigerian digital rights advocacy group Paradigm Initiative in a statement in The Guardian Nigeria. "We intend to follow up on it as it goes through the legislative process and is officially gazetted."

Public figures, artists, activists and journalists are coming together online and denouncing the proposed law using the viral hashtag #SayNoToSocialMediaBill.











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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Convener of "#Revolution Now" Omoyele Sowore speaks during his arraignment for charges against the government at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nigerian Activist, Omoyele Sowore, Re-Arrested Just Hours After Being Released on Bail

Sowore, the organizer of Nigeria's #RevolutionNow protests, was detained by armed officers, once again, in court on Friday.

Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian human rights activist and former presidential candidate who has spent over four months in jail under dubious charges, was re-arrested today in Lagos while appearing in court.

The journalist and founder of New York-based publication Sahara Reporters, had been released on bail the day before. He was arrested following his organization of nationwide #RevolutionNow protests in August. Since then, Sowore has remained in custody on what are said to be trumped-up charges, including treason, money laundering and stalking the president.

He appeared in court once again on Friday after being released on bail in federal court the previous day. During his appearance, Sowore was again taken into custody by Nigerian authorities.

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

CNN Names Ethiopian Innovator Freweini Mebrahtu This Year's 'Hero of the Year'

Freweini Mebrahtu designed a reusable sanitary pad to help keep girls in school and has fought to end the cultural stigma around menstruation.

Last night, Ethiopia's Freweini Mebrahtu was been named CNN's "Hero of the Year". The award was in recognition of her work on menstruation and keeping girls in school as well as fighting to end the cultural stigma still attached to menstruation. Mebrahtu was also awarded USD 100 000 to help in expanding her work.

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Photo by Simon Maina /AFP for Getty Images

'Chalk Back' Sees Kenyan Women Fighting Back Against Street Sexual Harassment

Kenyan women and girls in Kibera are using chalk to literally document their experiences with sexual harassment on the very streets they've been harassed.

Kenyan women and girls living in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlements on the continent, are fed up with being sexually harassed daily on the streets by men.

In a campaign dubbed "Chalk Back", women and young girls are using chalk to document their experiences with sexual harassment on the same streets they've been harassed, according to the BBC.

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