Internet, Social Media and the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill

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The Problem Statement

The internet and social media have become an effective platform for channelling citizens’ criticism of government, and have also enabled journalists to quickly report and disseminate stories on corrupt practices, unaccountable governance and poor service.

The bill contains ambiguity and many unidentified terms (technical subject) as outlined by the president. They include surveillance and digital protection, lawful interception of communication, digital protection and retention amongst others.

However, the Bill seeks to propose and affirm a human rights-based approach in dealing with these issues and to ensure that future laws and policies as well as administrative actions are consistent with this approach.

The Policy Solution

The bill is a legislation proposed to be an act to provide for the protection of human rights online and protect internet users in Nigeria by eliminating the fear to participate in the digital space thus bringing people closer to the Government and to opportunities that abound in the use of digital platforms.

The objectives of the bill seek:

  1. To guarantee the application of human rights which apply offline within the digital space and online;
  2. To provide safeguards against abuse and provide opportunities for redress where infringement occurs;
  3. To ensure data privacy and safeguard sensitive citizens’ data held by government and privacy institutions;
  4. To equip the judiciary with the necessary framework to protect human rights online;
  5. To safeguard the digital liberty of Nigerians now and in the future; and
  6. To seek the guarantee of inviolability of communications, except by order of court obtained in accordance to due process of law.

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NIGAC Constructive Position/Take

If made law, the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill will be an “act to provide for the protection of the human rights online, to protect internet users in Nigeria from infringement of their fundamental freedoms and to guarantee the application of human rights for users of digital platforms and/or digital media and for related matters.”

With the increased usage of social media amongst individuals in Nigeria, it has become relevant for the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill to be passed into law. The bill should have provisions that deal with misinformation, slander and libel.

One of the major aspects the Bill is concerned with is the promotion of freedoms of expression, assembly and association online; guarantee the fundamental privacy rights of citizens and define the legal framework regarding surveillance; clearly outline provision for lawful and authorized interception of communications within the digital environment while balancing this out with the rights of the citizens to communicate freely; accord data privacy more priority and thus safeguarding citizens’ data being held by government and private institutions; guarantee the application of the human rights which apply offline within the digital environment and online and a host of other goals.

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