The Nigerian Communications Commission says the restriction of access to specific content which the Federal Government finds objectionable is in line with global standards.
The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, Adeleke Adewolu, disclosed this at the 2021 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, themed ‘Taking the Lead’.
According to him, the NCC has had to opt for a middle ground that promotes safe use of digital service platforms without denying citizens the right to free expression as guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution when it comes to censorship, particularly tackling illegal and harmful content on over-the-top platforms.
He said on technology platforms, censorship manifests in three scenarios, namely, restriction of person-to-person communications; restriction of Internet access generally; or restriction of access to specific content, which governments find objectionable.
According to Adewolu, this is pursuant to constitutional provisions such as those in Section 39(3) of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, which approves “any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society to prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony, wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films.”
According to him, the restriction of access to certain content is globally recognised, noting that one of the core responsibilities of government (as enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution) is to safeguard the lives and property of citizens.
Adewolu said social media platforms allowed instant communications without regard for impact or consequences.
He said, “Leading social media platforms have demonstrated a rather unfortunate reluctance to moderate the use of their platforms for subversion and harm. So, we cannot trust them to self-regulate.
“Self-regulation has not been very effective, and interestingly, the largest platforms are global platforms and many of them are protected by their home governments.
“For instance, Sc.230 of US Communications Act provides immunity to firms like Facebook and Google from responsibility for content disseminated on their media, although they still apply fair usage and community rules which enable them to self-regulate.
“However, as we saw with the case of the former US President Donald Trump – people are often able to disseminate negative content for a while before they are cut off. Mr Trump had over 87 million followers he engaged directly with.”
Adewolu added that the United Nations Secretary General recently called for the regulation of social media platforms.
He said, “So, we cannot wholly depend on self-regulation. And while we cannot prevent citizens from freely expressing themselves on these platforms, it would be irresponsible for any government to allow unbridled use of these mediated communications to cause chaos and imperil lives and property. Government must act to protect social cohesion and national security.”
The NCC executive said the agency was adjusting regulatory instruments and management tools to ensure regulations are fit for the ever-changing telecoms sector.
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Source: NCC defends restriction of access to content