Legal Nigeria

Why twitter, others must register to operate

Lai Mohammed: says that the directive that Over the Top (OTT) and social media platforms operating in the country must register and obtain operating license is in conformity with global trend.

The Federal Government said its directive that Over the Top (OTT) and social media platforms operating in the country must register and obtain a license to operate is in conformity with global trend.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said this on Friday when he featured on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme “Good Morning Nigeria’’.

The Federal Government recently suspended operations of Twitter and directed that all OTT and social media platforms operating in the country must register with Corporate Affairs Commission.

The Federal Government said they must also apply for licensing with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

OTT media service is a media service offered directly to viewers via the internet.

The minister said if the platforms were registered and issued with licenses, their operations would be regulated within the terms of their registrations.

He said it was unfortunate that most of the OTT and social media had no offices in Nigeria where they operated and made billions of dollars without paying any tax.

Mohammed said the advent of social media platforms took the world by storm that many countries did not know whether they were operating as commercial communication or information tools.

He said many countries had now woken up to the reality and had commenced regulating the platforms and Nigeria would not be an exception.

“Singapore regulates the social media, Australia has done so, even EU that does not have particular laws on social media has made recommendations in a white paper.

“The EU says that social media platforms that publish content that are harmful to the security of a nation or make such impressionable move, such content should be removed,’’ he said.

To further justify his position, the minister said that the UK on Wednesday planned a new law that would make social media companies be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover or 18 million pounds (about N10.8 billion) if they failed to stamp out online abuses.

He said Google was fined 220 million Euros (about N110 billion) on June 7, by French Competition Regulator for abusing its dominance in the online advertising market in France.

Similarly, the minister said the Federal Cabinet of Pakistan on Wednesday approved a new set of rules to regulate social media.

In the rules, according to the minister, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok were to register and open offices in Pakistan.

Mohammed said in compliance with the new online broadcasting rule of Turkey, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had obtained licenses with the country’s broadcasting authority.

The minister said with all the development, the condemnations by some foreign missions on the action taken by the Federal Government against Twitter, as well as, its decision to regulate social media was unfair.

“We must make the distinction between those countries that are trying to protect their economic and commercial interest from those who are genuinely talking about freedom of speech.

“We should also realise that it is because we have a country called Nigeria that we are discussing freedom of speech.

“Unfortunately, our own people are the ones giving vent and protecting twitter more than Twitter itself under the guise of freedom of expression.

“I believe that Nigeria still rank among the countries with the freest media in the world today.

“Facebook, Google hang out, Whatsapp, Instagram are still operating in Nigeria.

“Why will the heavens fall because we are suspending twitter because it is promoting insurgency,’’ he said.

The minister reiterated that there was nowhere in the world where activities of Twitter was proven to be supporting separatist that it would not be suspended.