Make social media firms accountable, group tells N’Assembly

The Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria has advised the National Assembly to ensure companies are accountable for content distribution on social media.

The experts said making social media managers personally liable for harmful content distributed on their platforms was a better option than the Anti-Social Media Bill it was proposing.

CSEAN in a statement issued in Lagos said the proposed ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ was an attempt by the lawmakers and government to clamp down on free speech.

If eventually passed into law, the President, CSEAN, Remi Afon, said it would silence and intimidate the Nigerian citizens.

Afon said, “It is crystal clear that the sponsors and supporters of this bill are threatened by the digital space and all the freedom it offers to the masses. Historically, Nigerian government has exercised inordinate power over the media, particularly the so called ‘independent media’, in a bid to stifle dissenting voices.

“We therefore call on the Senate to kill this repressive hate speech bill as a matter of urgency and enact laws that will encourage better digital inclusion.”

He suggested that social media companies should be mandated to quickly take down offensive posts as soon as they were posted or reported.

Afon said the government should legislate for a statutory duty of care monitored by an independent regulator and funded through a levy on social media companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Youtube.

“The regulator should be given enough power to impose substantial fines against companies that breach their duty of care and to hold individual executives personally liable,” he added.

The cybersecurity experts in Nigeria argued that social media had drastically changed the narrative of a few people, provided a voice and have empowered the masses by allowing freedom of expression.

While noting that the cyberspace had a lot of benefits, he said there had always been concerns around the misuse of the Internet in spreading fake news, propagating hate speech, distribution of materials relating to terrorism, child abuse, cyber-bullying, self-harm and suicide.
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