FG seeks legal power to control Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, others
The federal government of Nigeria has asked the House of Representatives to empower the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to regulate the activities of internet broadcasting entities and other online media.
The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, in his submission at a public hearing on a bill to amend the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission Act, asked the lawmakers to include the regulation of all online and internet broadcasting entities in section two (C) of the bill, as per a Premium Times report.
“I want to add that internet broadcasting and all online media should be included in the bill,” Mr Mohammed said.
Section two of the NBC act gives the regulatory body powers to receive, process and consider applications for the establishment, ownership of radio and television stations.
If the House considers the recommendation of the information minister, online broadcasting entities including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms will have to get approval from NBC to operate in Nigeria.
They will also be compelled to operate within the ambit of the Nigerian government, effectively subjecting them to the political experiences of the authorities.
Earlier in a separate development, an advocacy group of mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country had made clear that the power to regulate OTT and social media, if at all, lies outside the purview of the NBC but with the mandate of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Engr Gbenga Adebayo, the National Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Organization of Nigeria (ALTON) stated this in a comment on the burning matter.
According to him, “Indeed yes, Over-The-Top (OTT) is a layer on communication channels provided on telecom services: it’s part of the Quad Play of Broad-bands which refers to Telephony, Television, Internet and other Mobile Services.”
He also explained that “It’s part of the convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting and the regulator of the base infrastructure should be responsible for licensing of the players which in this case and in our understanding is the Nigeria Communications Commission.”
ALTON chairman, further said that “It is a conversation that needs to happen but not under the current circumstances of a suspension of Twitter as a service and the directive for licensing arising therefrom.
Note that the federal government’s request for the regulatory power comes barely two weeks after the President Buhari regime banned Twitter operations across Nigeria, forcing telecoms networks to restrict access to the microblogging platform.
Information minister Lai Mohammed said the indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria was on the grounds that the platform was being used to spread false information and “activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
The ban came a day after Twitter deleted tweets and videos posted on the microblogging site President Buhari, interpreted by some Twitter users to threaten genocide against the Igbo-dominated South-East, and thus found to have violated Twitter’s rules and regulations.
The FG subsequently ordered all broadcasting stations in Nigeria to suspend the use of the microblogging platform.
The government also said all social media companies and over the top broadcasters (OTT) must register with the country’s NBC.
Since the unpopular announcement, Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to condemn the action.
Diplomatic missions of Sweden, Canada, United States, Britain, as well as rights body Amnesty International have all criticised the move and called for its reversal.
Local and international rights body say the ban of Twitter is an attack on the freedom of expression of Nigerians.