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Communications Minister, Pantami, Emphasizes Need For Online Safety In Nigeria

Addressing the issues surrounding content moderation and the need to improve online safety in Nigeria, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), has reiterated the importance of ensuring a safer platform for online users.

The Minister said that the recently released Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria will provide opportunity to protect the fundamental human rights of Nigerians and foreigners living in the country, as well as define guidelines for interacting on digital space.

Pantami who was represented by the Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, said this at the Nigeria’s First Content Moderation and Online Safety Summit organised by Advocacy for Policy and Innovation (API), in Abuja.

While speaking at the summit with theme; “The Challenge for Content Moderation and the Opportunity to Improve Online Safety in Nigeria”, Pantami refered to Joe Biden’s request to the CEO of Facebook, who pleaded that Facebook should moderate dismisinformation on the platform, and Nancy Pelosi’s petitions to the House of Representatives requesting Facebook and Twitter to take-down videos of her ripping the SOTU speech.

Essentially, in a democracy, he stated, there are three key things to the development of every individual, these are, Power, Freedom, and Justice. He however said that citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, must not allow anyone have unaccountable power over others.

“Today looking at the social media incidence before the US election, indicated that Big Tech has more power than the Government. Users are compelled to obey the Big Tech rules because of the restrictions and sanctions in its usage. For example, if you use Twitter there is a limit of the words you can tweet,” he said.

The Minister emphasized that in a democratic setting citizens should have representatives elected by people to write rules rather than a few, which will cause challenges such as the recruitment system being gender biased, or the recognition system being racist.

“While we need modern Software Engineers, there is also the need for Social Engineers to control our social justice. The summit, therefore, is timely and is expected to prompt lead ways to protecting the ungoverned online space.”

“We need to look at technology as a citizen, how it impacts our life? What the Big Techs should control, and under what conditions? Because we believe that today’s technology is central to our social, economic, and political lives”. He concluded.

On his part, the Director, Advocacy for Policy and Innovation (API), Barrister Kasim Sodangi, outlined the harmful ways the internet is affecting people’s lives.

He said, “we are at a crossroads due to the abuse of freedom given by the internet… do we regulate and clampdown? Do we educate more? What are the tools needed to educate people? How do we properly tackle misinformation and disinformation? These questions leave us to ponder because as a shared resource, the internet is meant to be enhanced and not restricted, so we are left to consider how we can effectively maximize its general usage.”

The Execuitve Director of Internet Sans Frontiers (Internet Without Borders) and the Executive Director of Content Policy & Society Lab at Stanford University, Julie Owono, opined that to have stability for a whole society and safety of online spaces, the Tech world must collaborate with relevant stakeholders to be really effective.

She said, “The government bodies and agencies must create laws, guidelines, and online content regulations as well as partner with private technology companies, civil society organizations, citizens, and academia.”

Making reference to Twitter suspending Donald Trump’s account due to Trump’s inciting street violence and unrest in the American society through his tweets, Julie said this form of regulation helps prevent insurgence and protects the safety of the citizens.

She therefore affirmed the need of a governance model to ensure proper review and seamless taking down of harmful content on the internet, While emphasizing the need for transparency in online spaces.

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