The Senate on Wednesday passed for second reading, the bill for an Act to make provisions for the protection from internet falsehood and manipulations and the related matters.
The legislation popularly known as anti-Social media bill, is sponsored by the Senator Sani Musa (APC Niger East).
During debate on the bill, only Senator Chimaroke Nnamani (PDP Enugu East), kicked against the bill .
Nnamani, was however cut short by a point of order raised by Senator Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South), who quoted the provision of Section 39(1)(3) of the 1999 as amended to justify the introduction of the bill by the Senate.
He said, “Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.”
However, Senators Ibrahim Gobir, Elisha Abbo, and Abba Moro, supported the bill in their various contributions during the debate that lasted about 10 minutes.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, put the passage of the bill for a second reading to a voice vote after confirming that no senator was ready to speak against it.
The majority of the lawmakers in the chamber, unanimously voted in support of the bill and it was read the second time.
Musa in his lead debate, said his bill purposes a framework and system of regulation, control and conduct, the use of the internet and various social platforms in the transmission of information in Nigeria.
“The bill is not an attempt to stifle free speech or dissenting views; it is rather an opportunity to address a growing threat which, if left unchecked, can cause serious damage in our polity and disrupt peaceful coexistence,” he said.
He stated that much as the internet has numerous benefits, it is also used for the purpose of manipulating information and spreading falsehoods.
The lawmaker noted that state and non-state actors engaged in geo-political interests and identity politics, use internet falsehood to discredit governments, misinform people and turn one group against another.
“Individuals and groups influenced by ideologies and deep-seated prejudices in different countries use internet falsehoods to surreptitiously promote their causes,”he lamented.
He added that while the phenomenon of internet falsehood and manipulation remained a serious global challenge, countries like Singapore have taken measures to curb the proliferation of fake news and disinformation with the passage into law of the Proliferation from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019.
The Senate therefore mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to make further legislative inputs into the bill and report back in four weeks time.