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Senate reintroduces bill to jail Social media abusers

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The Senate has reintroduced the bill seeking a three-year jail term for anyone involved in what it called “abuse of social media”.

The proposed law provides for an option of N150,000 fine or both.

The bill is coming about three years after the Red Chamber was pressurised to abandon what many tagged “draconian anti-social media” bill introduced by the eight Senate.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed had said the Federal Government would regulate the social media.

The current bill, which has gone through the first reading, also proposes N10 million fine for media houses involved in “peddling falsehood or misleading the public”.

Telecommunication firms whose platforms are used to disseminate fake news will also be punished under the proposed law.

The bill titled: Protection from internet falsehood and manipulations Bill, 2019, was sponsored by the Senator representing Niger East, Mohammed Sani Musa, of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Musa told reporters after the bill was read for the first time that it was meant for patriotic Nigerians who will want to see the country live in peace.

He said that the bill is aimed at regulating how social media is used.

Musa said: “For a country like Nigeria, and with the advent of social media, there is every reason for a country to as much as possible, focus its attention to see how this new media is tolerated.

“I may decide to remain in my room or office and then draft something I know very well is false because I want to hit at someone.

“Before you know it, it has been shared all over. I have a passion for Information Technology and I know what it takes to disseminate your information. It is like the speed of light.

“Some journalists will look at it as if we are trying to bring legislation that will gag the social media or the right to free press.

“It is a legislation that will guide how we can tolerate our activities on social media. False information has been disseminated so many times and they have caused chaos in different parts of the world.”

According to the lawmaker, any telecoms firm that fails to block the spread of false information through its platform would be punished.

He said: “If a corporate organisation refuses to block false information, despite being alerted by authorities not to disseminate it, refusing to do that blockage will result in penalty of between N5 million and N10 million.

“We want to do this transparently in safeguarding all of us. I felt as a developing nation facing so many challenges, there is no better time than to regulate this.

“If advanced countries and those not up to Nigeria are regulating, I don’t see why we should not do it. I know a lot of people will abuse it, but we also put some clauses to safeguard these abuses.”

The Senate first introduced a similar bill in 2016 and was later forced to withdraw it, following public outcry.

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