As social media grows and grows and empowers citizens, governments will try to take away that freedom. It has happening in many countries including Turkey and now Nigeria wants to join that list.
A Nigerian Senator wants to pass into a bill which is ridiculously named “Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected Therewith.” The new bill seeks to penalizes false statements made on newspaper, radio, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
The bill proposes that anybody or group of persons who sends any false text messages or post false messages on the social media against another person shall be jailed for two years upon conviction by the law court. The bill also proposes fines of 4 million Naira and upwards.
This seems a little harsh. Nigeria already has problems when it comes to government corruption. A problem which President Buhari is trying to clean up. President Buhari has distanced himself from the bill. His spokesman Garba Shehu said “the president won’t assent to any legislation that may be inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria.” He also reiterated president Buhari believes free speech is central to democratic societies.
As the internet grows and the citizens who were once powerless find their voices, governments will always try to curb that freedom. Egypt has gone through that period with the Arab spring. Other countries which have had dictators and oppressive governments are trying to monitor and restrict citizens from fully accessing social media. As this continues, governments see the threat of their power over the people slowly being eroded.
Nigeria has a corruption problem. Social media can help in bringing issues of corruption to light. Trying to limit that freedom with threats of jail time and fines won’t help matters. There is an understanding that false rumors can have a negative effect in public trust of government officials but perhaps, maybe the government should focus on ridding itself of corruption rather than trying to control social media.