On the 17th of May this year, the Nigerian Senate finally pulled the plug on the social media bill which was sponsored by Senator Bala Na’Allah of Kebbi South. The decision came on the heels of a report by the committee of Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal matters on the bill.
This however, could not be said to be much of surprise as it had always been opposed by majority stakeholders from the get go. If it had gone through, the bill would have required individuals to provide affidavits before the submission of any petition to the government. It would have also had to contend with existing laws that protect fundamental human rights. Harsh penalties would have awaited any person(s) who was deemed responsible for the publication of any false statement targeted at public office holders.
While cyber bullying and the dissemination of malicious content could be seen as a negative side to the freedom of speech on social media platforms, we should also remember that communication and the expression of personal views is as old as humanity itself. Instead of viewing social media as a weapon, it should be regarded as a veritable tool for building trusts and relationships. The 2015 elections showed to a great extent how valuable a tool it was for the electorates as well as the politicians whose various propaganda and manifestos were distributed widely via various platforms.
Social media is today’s go-to news source, it gives us a voice. Therefore we once again appreciate our good senators for taking a step in the right direction.