FG Engages TikTok On Data Transparency, Cyber Online Safety

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L-R: The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi presenting a copy of NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan to the head, government relations and public policy, TikTok Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan, Farah Tukan when she paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has called for the need to entrench transparency, laws and regulations in social media usage to ensure a safer digital space, devoid of illegalities and promoters of fake news.

Pantami, who was represented by the director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, said this while hosting a delegation of video-focused, social networking service, TikTok, in his office.

Abdullahi raised several concerns bordering on security, tax payment, direct contact with TikTok and general content hygiene.

“There is a need for you to be more transparent on what you do with the data, experience you take and your algorithm design; because most algorithms are designed to promote hate speech.

“Technology can be used as a weapon, or a tool” which, according to him, depends on the user’s intent.

He, therefore, emphasised the fact that there should be consequences for anyone who uses social media to commit a crime and maintained that anything that is illegal offline should also be illegal online. 

“In Nigeria, people are using TikTok for so many things; some use it to promote rituals and domestic violence while others use it for hate speech. So, we cannot continue to have people put out random contents without appropriate checks/verifications.”

The NITDA boss recalled the issues that ensued between the Federal Government and Twitter which led to the suspension of the platform’s operations in Nigeria. He said the microblogging and social networking service had to agree and meet certain conditions before the ban was lifted.

The conditions, the DG explained, will be extended to other social media platforms, including TikTok.

“We are working on drafting a ‘Code of Practice’ which we will share with you soon, get your feedback and see how we can make it better.”

Abdullahi was emphatic when he reiterated the need to direct contact with the company to agree on the timeline to either delete erring content or suspend accounts that violate rules.

Moreso, he encouraged TikTok to register and have an office in the country to enable prompt communications for subsequent engagements.

The leader of the TikTok delegation and head of government relations and public policy, TikTok Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan, Farah Tukan, said the team intends to host a series of workshops in Abuja and Lagos with the aim of enlightening Nigerians on how the platform works; taking a deep dive into how contents are moderated, developed and how policies are enforced. 

“We are committed to providing opportunities for Nigerians to earn a living through their creativity and expression, and as a global platform that thrives on creativity, it is essential that our users feel safe and comfortable online.

“Our user policies and tools are developed to promote a positive and safe environment for our community and we trust that users will respect and utilise these measures to keep TikTok fun and welcoming for everyone.”

She further confirmed TikTok’s readiness to explore more areas of collaboration with the agency to continue to contribute to keeping Nigerian users safe on its platform as well as promote the creative industries in Nigeria.

“We take misinformation and fake news very seriously and it’s actually against our community guidelines. We have policies that address misinformation, we also have a system (the human elements as well) that looks into this issue as well”. 

The team leader also affirmed that the company is open to conversations with the Nigerian government regarding updating its rules and regulations to ensure a more excellent user experience. 

NITDA hopes that the engagement and subsequent ones will translate to a safer digital space for every Nigerian, especially as TikTok has become one of the most preferred video-focused, social networking services.

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