NITDA’s Code Of Practice Will Tackle Fake News, Hate Speech — NADIR

The Network of Advocates for Digital Reporting (NADIR) has lauded the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for drafting a ‘Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Internet Intermediaries’.

At a press conference in Kano, the group said the code will not only strengthen press freedom and maintain the dignity of information but will also curtail fake news and hate speech before and during the 2023 elections.

The Coordinator, Dahiru Mohammed Lawal noted that the online space needed to be made comfortable for everyone to address issues that cause panic in society and infringe on laws.

“This wouldn’t have come at a better time than in the wake of the 2023 general elections when information disorder and illegal contents will have a field day; when businesses are going digital without paying necessary dues; when indiscretion in online activities is high.

“An unregulated online space remains a recipe for civil unrest. The need for an instrument that ensures our unity is not exploited for pecuniary gains, while guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, is incumbent on all patriotic citizens.

“Behaviours that increase tension along ethnic biases, interreligious incitements, blasphemy and even secessionist tendencies that threaten security and lead to violence and wanton attacks thrive in an unregulated media space.”

Lawal pointed out that while the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) regulates broadcast stations, the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) ensures the maintenance of the highest ethical professional standards in the print media.

“Why should the online platforms, especially social media, be free from the regulatory scrutiny?”, the coordinator asked, explaining hat other countries have taken stricter measures to curtail excesses on online platforms.

NADIR recalled that on June 16, Meta (Facebook), Google, Twitter and Microsoft agreed to take a tougher line against disinformation, deep fakes and fake accounts, under an updated European Union (EU) Code of Practice or face hefty fines.

Lawal said more than 30 signatories including advertising bodies have signed up for the updated code on disinformation as disclosed by the European Commission.

“Even the United States Government – the self-righteous custodians of free speech – has announced that it was establishing an interagency task force to fight harassment and abuse online.”

On the socio-economic benefits of the code of practice, Lawal said with the digital space contributing about 18% to Nigeria’s GDP, compelling big techs to abide by local laws and pay the requisite tax would increase government revenue.

“Regulations will promote more local content, create jobs and breed more corporate and law-abiding citizens who are mindful of our collective sensitivities and unity.

“While NITDA has clarified that the code is a draft and subject to inputs, we urge stakeholders to contribute appropriately in order to achieve a mutually accepted code of regulations without recourse to the fear of tackling freedom of speech”, he added.

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