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Group launches campaign against bills on social media, hate speech

Group launches campaign against bills on social media, hate speech
June 22
20:11 2020

The Center for Advancement of Civil Liberties and Development, also known as the Center for Liberty (CFL), has launched a campaign against social media and hate speech bills.

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The social media bill entitled, “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation 2019”, passed second reading at the senate in November.

Both bills have generated wide opposition as Nigerians described it as an attempt to gag the media and trample on citizens’ freedom of expression.

In a statement co-signed by Adebayo Raphael and Maryam Ahmed on behalf of CFL on Monday, the non-governmental organisation announced the commencement of a campaign against the bills.

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The organisation said the campaign will be implemented using the hashtag #InternetNoBeEnemy.

It explained that social media has helped in granting adequate expression, adding that it could have prevented the spread of COVID-19 but for the forceful suppression of information in China.

“Today, Monday, the 22nd of June, 2020, CFL is pleased to announce the commencement of a Digital Freedom Advocacy which is being sponsored by Voice Nigeria and aimed at facilitating citizens’ engagement on digital freedom, with the specific goal of ensuring the withdrawal of legislative bills threatening citizens’ rights to digital freedom and freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitutional democracy,” the statement read.

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“The Digital Freedom Advocacy is a citizens-led intervention that will be implemented using the hashtag #InternetNoBeEnemy, to mobilize Nigerians to ensure the withdrawal of the “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019” which was overwhelmingly rejected at the public hearing on March 9, 2020; as well as the withdrawal of the “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill, 2019” – which is still at its introductory stage on the floor of the Nigerian Senate.

“The Nigerian Senate is invited to understudy how internet censorship, intimidation of medical practitioners, the clampdown on whistle-blowers and forceful suppression of information on COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan district in China, had prevented the world from learning and preparing early for the deadly virus, which has now infected over eight million people worldwide.

“It is now being said that China’s failure to alert the world to the outbreak of the novel virus, had impeded a rapid global action and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the deaths of nearly five hundred thousand people across the world, including over five hundred Nigerians. We believe that the inestimable role of digital platforms, including social media, in Nigeria, has been well-accentuated throughout Nigeria’s response and fight against COVID-19 so far.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical and mental isolation which Nigerians and indeed global citizens have had to put up with in recent times, the social media and other digital platforms have not only been the fountain of inspiration to Nigerians, but they have also played a conspicuous role in accentuating the essence of our democracy – freedom; thereby allowing citizens to hold their elected representatives accountable and at the same time demand better representation.

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“It will, therefore, be a grave mistake for the Nigerian Senate to make Nigeria vulnerable to a potential global health, economic or political crisis as a result of the passage of the social media bill and the hate speech bill.

“It is, perhaps, also important to note that while CFL admits that occasionally, there are instances of false information on social media platforms, we have also observed that such information is often quickly debunked by either the concerned media platform’s fact-checking mechanisms or by other internet users who have personal knowledge of a more accurate information. The consistency of this act of selfregulation on digital platforms accentuates the essence of digital freedoms in any democratic society.

“It is for these reasons that we wish to urge the Nigerian Senate, to immediately kill the social media bill and the hate speech bill, as their lingering existence in the legislative chamber would continue to pose an enormous danger to democratic security and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Nigerians, including the lawmakers, too. The Internet is not the enemy #InternetNoBeEnemy.”

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