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Condemnation Trail Aisha Buhari’s call For China-Style of ‘Social Media Gag’

Many Nigerians questioned the first lady why she would want Nigeria to emulate China’s regulation of social media but ignore the Asian country’s strict stance on anti-corruption which prescribes death by hanging for corrupt officials.

The call by the Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari for the adoption of China’s style of social media regulation has been heavily criticised by a cross-section of Nigerians.

The First lady, had at the conference by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs supported the controversial social media bill at the National assembly saying if the medium could be used to peddle lies, there should be laws to control and punish such offences.

She said,

“On this issue of social media, you cannot just sit in the comfort of your house and tweet that the Vice President has resigned. It is a serious issue. If China can control over 1.3 billion people on social media, I see no reason why Nigeria cannot attempt controlling only 180 million people.”

However, Mrs Buhari’s comment was greeted with a barrage of criticism from a cross-section of Nigerians who took to social media to criticize the first lady’s statement.

Some wondered why Aisha Buhari would want Nigeria to emulate China’s regulation of social media but ignore the Asian country’s strict stance on anti-corruption which prescribes death by hanging for corrupt officials.

China’s social media law


The Internet first arrived in China in 1994 as a tool for the emerging “socialist market economy”. In 1998 the Communist Party of China feared the China Democracy Party (CDP), it’s outspoken opposition would breed a powerful new network that the party elites might not be able to control.

This new network was mostly fuelled by internet communication sites now referred to as social media hence the need to regulate it.
The Chinese government has described censorship as the method to prevent and eliminate “risks in the ideological field from the Internet.

President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping talks during a meeting in the Patio de Las Camelias on November 22, 2016, Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Sebastián Vivallo Oñate/Agencia Makro/LatinContent/Getty Images)

According to Amnesty International, around 30,000–50,000 internet police have been employed by the Chinese government to enforce internet laws.

The anti-social media law in China is called the Computer Information Network and Internet Security, Protection, and Management Regulations.

The law prevents an individual to use the internet to incite, resist or obstruct the implementation of the Constitution, legislation or administrative regulations.

It also frowned at using the internet to fabricate or distort the truth, spread rumours and destroying the order of the society or to overthrow the government or the socialist system.

In a report by CNN, China’s Internet censorship is more extensive and advanced than that of any other country in the world. The Chinese government blocks website content and monitors individuals’ Internet access.

Many controversial events are prohibited from news coverage, preventing many Chinese citizens from knowing of their government’s actions. Such measures inspired the policy’s nicknamed, “The Great Firewall of China.”

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It has also been reported that China has been using different methods to block websites and pages including DNS poisoning, blocking access to IP addresses, analyzing and filtering URLs, packet inspection, and resetting connections.

Amnesty International has also noted that China has “the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders stated in its 2010 and 2012 reports that “China is the world’s biggest prison for netizens.”

Although censorship affects the whole nation, it does not affect China’s special administrative regions such as Hong Kong and Macau. These regions enjoy a high degree of autonomy, as specified in local laws and the “One country, two systems” principle. However, it was reported that the central government authorities have been closely monitoring Internet use in these regions.

High level bickering

The Nigerian media space has been awash with high-level bickering over the planned introduction of the social media laws as many have called for the withdrawal of the two bills aimed at regulating social media with one specifically prescribing capital punishment for hate speech offenders.

One of the proposed laws titled “A Bill for an Act to make Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations and for Related Matters, 2019,” sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa, representing Niger East, had scaled second reading in the Senate.

Also, the bill titled “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Establishment, etc) Bill, 2019” sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, prescribed death by hanging for offenders. But Abdullahi had said that the clause that provided for death by hanging in the bill would be expunged before it is passed by the Senate.

Sen. Sabi Abdullahi, the sponsor of the ‘Hate speech’ Bill

Musa on his part has said the protection from internet falsehood bill does not intend to gag the media but to check the spread of false information on the internet, many have questioned some portions of the bill which according to them were attempts to stiffen the masses freedom of expression.
According to the proposed bill, a person must not transmit a statement that is false or might affect the country’s security, public safety or public finance.


Enforcement

According to the Provisions for the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations and for Related Matters bill, offenders can still be prosecuted even after the “false statement” has been corrected or pulled down. The offender will be required to publish a “correction notice” in a specified newspaper, online location or other printed publication of Nigeria.
Failure to comply, the offender will be liable to N200,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both (for an individual) and five million naira for organizations.
To further deter others, the offender’s internet access will be disabled by the Nigerian Communications Commission

The anti-social media bill also stipulates a fine of N300,000 or three years imprisonment or both for any individual who posts anything on social media proved to be false {fake news} or has the capacity to affect the peace and security of the nation. Organizations found guilty of this are also liable to a fine of N10 million.