Draft NITDA Code for Interactive Computing Service Platforms and Internet Intermediaries | Denton

The Nigerian government has launched an initiative to regulate social media platforms with a new code of practice, months after lifting Twitter’s controversial 7-month ban. On June 13, 2022, the National Agency for the Development of Information Technologies (“NITDA“) has published a draft regulatory document entitled: Code of Practice (the “Coded”) to regulate interactive computing service platformsand Internet Intermediaries (“Platform Providers”). The main purpose of the Code is to regulate and establish best practices for platform providers and define the rules of interaction in conducting various activities in the Nigerian digital ecosystem. The Code also deals with morality and information regulation as it aims to prevent users from promoting revenge pornography, child sexual abuse, cyberbullying and spreading false information. .

The Code highlights the specific responsibilities that platform providers are expected to assume in accordance with all information and content presented on their platform, as well as their duty to comply with Nigerian laws. Some of these responsibilities have been highlighted below:

  1. Removal of illegal content within 24 hours of receiving a complaint on their platform from a user or authorized government agency.
  2. Upon court order, prompt submission of information, or provision of assistance at the request of any authorized government agency to help investigate, combat cybercrime, or prosecute an offense
  3. Provision of a dedicated channel for submission requests or complaints against illegal or harmful content by government agencies and authorized users.
  4. Filing of annual compliance report with NITDA which must contain specific information such as number of registered users on their platforms, number of active registered users, number of closed and deactivated accounts, number of content removed with and without notice or court order, number of contents delivered with or without notice and any other relevant information, inter alia in Nigeria.
  5. Major service platforms (“LSP”) are required to meet certain conditions to operate in Nigeria, such as compulsory incorporation in Nigeria, payment of taxes and the appointment of representatives of the country who will act as a channel of communication between the government and the platform provider.
  6. Platform providers with less than 100,000 users may be required to comply with the obligations of an LSP when it appears necessary to preserve sovereignty, security, public order, foreign diplomatic relations and integrity. from Nigeria.
  7. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Code will be construed as a violation of the provisions of the NITDA Act of 2007, which provides penalties such as fines and imprisonment for convicted violators..

Conclusion

Although the provisions of the Code are generally commendable, some of them can be argued to infringe certain basic human rights, such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Specifically, the bold definition of harmful content appears to give the Nigerian government absolute control over determining what constitutes “harmful content”. Furthermore, and as highlighted in paragraph 2 above, the right to seek assistance from social media platforms, with investigations, even with a court order, is undoubtedly worrying and poses a threat to the right to user privacy.

However, since NITDA recently informed the public that

while it continues to welcome stakeholder input on the Code, which is in draft form, it is expected that some of these concerns will be addressed prior to the publication of the Code, in its final form.

  1. Interactive Computer Service Platforms means any electronic medium or site where Services are provided by means of a computer resource and on demand and where Users create, upload, share, distribute, modify or access information, including websites that provide reviews, a gaming platform, online sites to conduct business transactions.
  2. Internet intermediaries include, but are not limited to, social media operators, websites, blogs, media sharing websites, online chat rooms, streaming platform and ‘other similar oriented intermediaries where services are enabled or provided and transactions are conducted and where users may create, read, engage, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information.
  3. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of Part 1 and Part II of the Code
  4. Illegal content means any content that violates any existing law in Nigeria
  5. Authorized Government Agency means the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) or any agency authorized by its enabling statute and paragraph 3 of Part 1 of the Code.
  6. Paragraph 2 of Part 1 of the Code
  7. Harmful content means content that is not illegal but harmful and paragraphs 7 and 8 of part 1 of the Code
  8. Paragraph 9 of Part II of the Code
  9. LSPs are platform providers with over 100,000 users
  10. Paragraphs 1 to 6 of Part III of the Code
  11. Section 18 of the NITDA Act of 2007
  12. Article 39 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)
  13. Article 37 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).