Nigeria releases ‘Code of Practice’ to control ‘Online Platforms’

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has released a ‘Code of Practice’ for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries including online platforms.

According to the agency, “The Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of Online Platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.”

The statement released by its spokesperson, Hadiza Umar, on Monday stated that:

“The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these Online Platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction, and economic choices,” Mrs Umar wrote. “Hence, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of Online Platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.”

It is expected that the announcement would face criticism from Nigerians who have been sceptical of the Buhari administration since it declared its intention to regulate the media, particularly online media.

As part of its new code, NITDA says online platforms must “Provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform.”

The NITDA statement read in part:

“National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Issues a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria

“The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is mandated by section 6 of “the NITDA Act 2007, to standardize, coordinate and develop regulatory frameworks for all Information Technology (IT) practices in Nigeria.

“In line with the directive, NITDA wishes to present to the Public a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries for further review and input.

“The Code of Practice is aimed at protecting fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem. This is in line with international best practices as obtainable in democratic nations such as the United State of America, United Kingdom, European Union, and United Nations.

“The Code of Practice was developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok amongst others.

“The new global reality is that the activities conducted on these Online Platforms wield enormous influence over our society, social interaction, and economic choices. Hence, the Code of Practice is an intervention to recalibrate the relationship of Online Platforms with Nigerians in order to maximise mutual benefits for our nation, while promoting a sustainable digital economy.

“Similarly, to ensure compliance with the Code of Practice, NITDA also wishes to notify all Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries operating in Nigeria that the Federal Government of Nigeria has set out conditions for operating in the country. These conditions address issues around legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws. The conditions are as follows:

“Establish a legal entity i.e., register with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC);
Appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities;

Abide by all regulatory demands after establishing a legal presence;
Comply with all applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law;
Provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform; and
Provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and deleting any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.”