On 13th June, 2022, the National Information Technology Development Agency ("NITDA") issued a draft Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries(the "Code").
The objectives of the Code include setting out best practices required for Platforms, making the digital ecosystem safer for Nigerians and non-Nigerians in Nigeria, setting out measures to combat online harms such as disinformation and misinformation.
The Code of Practice applies to all interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and their agents in Nigeria.
This article examines some novel provisions in the draft code and possible impacts on existing legislative and regulatory framework for online platforms (such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google Search, etc.) in Nigeria.
Some of the salient provisions in the Code include:
- MANDATORY INCORPORATION OF LARGE SERVICE PLATFORMS
The Code prescribes additional responsibilities for Platforms whose users are more than One Hundred Thousand. Some of which include mandatory incorporation in Nigeria, have a physical contact address in Nigeria, appoint of a liaison officer as a communication channel between the Platform Provider and the Nigerian government, among others.
- PROVISION OF INFORMATION PURSUANT TO COURT ORDER (Part
The Platform shall act expeditiously upon receiving a Court order directing it to provide any information under its domain or any assistance to any authorized government agency for the purpose of carrying our an investigation, combating cybercrimes, or prosecuting an offence.
- TAKEDOWN OF UNLAWFUL OR PROHIBITED CONTENT (Part
The Code mandates Platform Providers to take down unlawful or prohibited content within 24 hours of receiving a notice from an authorised Agency of the presence of an unlawful content.
The Code defines unlawful content to mean any content that violates an existing law in Nigeria while Prohibited content on the other hand is described as any content or information objectionable on the grounds of public interest, morality, order, security, peace, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Nigerian laws.
An authorised Agency within the purview of the above provision means the National Information Technology Development Agency ("NITDA"), Nigerian Communications Commission ("NCC), National Broadcasting Commission ("NBC"), or any agency authorised by its enabling law.
- COMPLAINT CHANNEL (Part 1(7) & (8))
The Platform is to provide a dedicated channel that is available all the time where an authorised government agency or a user can lodge or forward a request or complaint against contents that are unlawful or harmful.
- MANDATORY FILING OF ANNUAL COMPLIANCE REPORT (Part
Platforms are mandated to file an annual compliance report with NITDA that indicates the number of registered and active users on its platforms in Nigeria, number of contents removed and re-uploaded, number of unresolved and resolved complaints and any other relevant information.
- PROHIBITED MATERIALS (Part IV)
A Platform shall not continue to keep prohibited materials or make them available for access when they are informed of such materials. Prohibited materials include materials objectionable on the grounds of public interest, morality, order, security, peace or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Nigerian Laws.
The laws of Nigeria include but are not limited to the following: Nigerian Communications Act; Nigeria Broadcasting Code; Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, and Advertising Practitioners Act, 2004.
It is without doubt that the aim of the Code is to safeguard the security and interest of Nigerians and non-Nigerians regarding activities conducted on the digital ecosystem, as well as to combat online harms such as disinformation, cyber harassment, child pornography, and others.
However, some provisions of the Code seemingly threaten the fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens to freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
It is therefore recommended that comparative study be carried out on other juridictions and the management of social media cum hate speech.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.