“Code of Practice for Online Platforms” and NITDA’s National Security, by Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi



In a bid to ensure that sanity is maintained in Nigeria’s internet circuit, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) recently unveiled a code of practice for online platforms.

The move aims to regulate the mode of operation of online platforms to thwart the eruption of any kind of crisis in the country’s ICT sector.

The Code of Practice has been developed in collaboration with relevant industry stakeholders including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) as well as input from IT Service Platforms interactive (also known as Tech Giants) such as Twitter. , Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google and Tik Tok among others.

With the increasing technological advancements and the Internet, the media has transformed the world into a village where news and information can be transmitted to a large heterogeneous society in the shortest possible time.

The availability of this exploit is the emergence of online social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, etc.). The aforementioned social media platforms have made it possible to disseminate information without hindrances.

While reaping the benefits and dividends brought by these tech giant platforms, stakeholders and regulators should not overlook the negative effects associated with their unrestricted activities, especially in a multicultural society like Nigeria, segmented along religious, ethnic and regional lines.

Over the years, online social media platforms in Nigeria have been used as an ideal medium to spread dangerous information that could compromise national security, which threatened the country’s existence as a business entity.

Promoting this ugly trend among the citizens is the lack of proper mechanism or legal framework by the government or any other institution to oversee and regulate the conduct and affairs of these international tech giants.

However, with NITDA’s new Code of Practice, it’s fair to say that the situation is about to change for a better narrative.

Quoting NITDA; “The Code of Practice seeks to protect the basic human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as set out guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.

“This is in line with international best practice obtainable in democratic countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations.”

It is disturbing to learn that our public space is continuously polluted on a daily basis by unhealthy content capable of heating up the body politic. These include, but are not limited to, hate speech, fake news, misinformation and disinformation and a host of others.

Agitators and other ethno-religious fanatics have used social media for their vicious campaigns capable of inciting genocidal violence in Nigeria. It is on this note that last year the federal government had no choice but to ban the operations of the microblogging site, i.e. Twitter, because of their prominent role in the transmission of “dangerous material” likely to harm the public peace and security of Nigeria.

To this effect, it can be recalled how the prominent role played by social media platforms had aggravated the EndSARS youth protest of October 2020 in Nigeria, where numerous fake news and inciting comments spread via Twitter and Facebook have was able to project what had started earlier as peaceful. manifestation to an upheaval. Many civilians and security forces were killed, while private and public properties worth billions of naira were also destroyed.

Other than that, it is notorious that scrolling through the pages of our social media handles will leave a sane person wondering which direction the future of our younger generation is facing. Because images as well as footage of how social vices and other forms of crime can be committed are shared.

It is still fresh in our minds, how Soliu Majekodunmi, a teenager from Ogun who was arrested in January 2022, for massacring his girlfriend, Sofiyah, for alleged ritual money making, has made heartbreaking revelations that he was able to learn and understand. practice via Facebook.

Also, various tactics and strategies on how to commit robbery, yahoo – yahoo, kidnapping, cult, etc. are presented in the form of comedies on our media platforms, all in the name of entertainment while ignoring the negative effects that this could constitute. on the minds and cognitive processes of many people, especially younger people, who might consider this to be normal actions.

Moreover, our eyes and brains are also bombarded with bloody images and videos recorded from the scene of violence which continue to harden our minds, making us feel inshockable at the unfolding of this kind of brutality and barbaric acts. We consider this as a normal event as well as on the agenda. And it’s not unrelated to the way we’re exposed to it too much on social media.

Therefore, it is not surprising why there has recently been an unacceptable upsurge in mob justice incidents in our societies. During this heinous act, a defendant will be lynched and also set on fire while the footage will go viral on social media for other senseless and senseless mobs in another place to watch and later serve as a model for them to lead an episode similar.

Again, another dangerous form of internet-assisted crime is “cyberstalking”. Kidnappers and other cohorts of criminals love to record the process of torturing their victims and post the content into the public space via social media for promotion without any restrictions from service providers or managers.

We can recall how the Nigerian Army intended couple were raped and killed en route to Imo State for their wedding ceremony and the tragic images of these barbaric acts were passed on social media by the authors. How long are we going to continue to live with these moral decadences with online platforms at the epicenter of promoting this campaign at no cost? Something needs to be done to stem the rising tide of these cybercrimes.

Hence, this code of practice instituted by NITDA has set out “procedures to protect the safety and well-being of Nigerians while interacting on these platforms. It aims to hold online platforms accountable for illegal and harmful content on their platforms. Furthermore, it establishes a strong framework for collaborative efforts to protect Nigerians from harm online, such as hate speech, cyber-harassment, as well as disinformation and/or misinformation.

This intervention by NITDA comes at a good time, especially in the run-up to the 2023 general election where social media will be widely used for politicians’ election campaigns. Because this will greatly contribute to restricting the appearance of content capable of heating up politics.

NITDA has undoubtedly done a tremendous job in coming up with this set of standard procedures, especially after proper consultation with relevant online platforms and other industry stakeholders and agencies.

Also Read: Finally, NITDA Releases Code of Practice for Online Platforms Operating in Nigeria

Nevertheless, it is at this stage that I will take this opportunity to draw the attention of NITDA to consider incorporating the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) among the stakeholders of this national watershed mission.

As the agency responsible for regulating the operation of the print media, including newspapers, journals and magazines in Nigeria, their contributions and role can therefore never be minimized, especially in this age of digitization where all houses Print media companies have since created online platforms where the public can simply click the button and access their news and reports as events unfold.

This is necessary as it will add more value and reach to the campaign in order to achieve the desired goals and objectives.

All in all, it is necessary that NITDA make every effort to ensure the outright implementation of procedures by these online platforms as outlined in this Code of Practice. In the same vein, legal frameworks should be used to sanction any relevant platform that does not respect this ethics as enshrined in the Code of Good Practices.

Mukhtar, an Emergency Digest editor, wrote from Wuye, Abuja.

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