The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has been ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to standardize, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for social media platforms operating in the country, in collaboration with relevant agencies and stakeholders.
The agency, mandated by section 6 of the NITDA Act 2007, will develop a code of practice for interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries (online platforms).
In line with the directive, NITDA wishes to present to the public a code of practice for interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries for further review and input. The code of practice is aimed at protecting the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country, as well as defining guidelines for interacting in the digital ecosystem. This is in line with international best practices as obtainable in democratic nations such as the United State of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations.
A statement by the agency’s head, corporate affairs and external relationship, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, said the code of practice was developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), with input from interactive computer service platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, Tik Tok, amongst others. Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area who were consulted include civil society organisations and expert groups.
The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction and economic choices. Hence, the code is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of online platforms with Nigerians, to maximise mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.
Additionally, the code sets out procedures to safeguard the security and welfare of Nigerians while interacting on these platforms. It aims to demand accountability from online platforms regarding unlawful and harmful content on their platforms. Furthermore, it establishes a robust framework for collaborative efforts to protect Nigerians against online harm like hate speech, cyber-bullying, as well as disinformation and/or misinformation.
Similarly, to ensure compliance with the code, NITDA also wishes to notify all interactive computer service platforms/internet intermediaries operating in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set out conditions for operating in the country. These conditions address issues around legal registration of operations, taxation and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws. The conditions are as follows:
i. Establish a legal entity i.e., register with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC);
ii. Appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities;
iii. Abide by all regulatory demands after establishing a legal presence;
iv. Comply with all applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law;
v. Provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited content and unethical behaviour on their platform and
vi. Provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and delete any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.
The draft code of practice is available on the NITDA website https://nitda.gov.ng/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Code-of-Practice.pdf for review and comments from the public.