Social unrest and attempts to censor social media and, by extension, freedom of speech in Nigeria is highlighting the need for censorship-resistant, decentralized networks.
Talks about the Anti-social Media Bill to prevent Nigerian youths from protesting against the government has reminded us about the need for decentralized social networks.
Following the recent EndSARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria, the government has returned to a previous bill that intends to criminalize the use of social media to restrict free speech.
Created last year, authorities claimed the bill dubbed “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill” is part of the government’s efforts to curb fake news on social networks.
The idea to regulate social media met heavy criticisms across the country, and fortunately for Nigerians, the bill died a few months later.
Police Brutality In Nigeria
However, talks about the bill resurfaced after Nigerian youths staged multiple protests against police brutality and oppression.
As reported earlier, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a division of the Nigeria Police Force, has been oppressing, extorting, and killing young Nigerians for sport. The brutality went on for years until earlier this month when the #EndSars campaign on social media was backed with peaceful protests across the country.
The campaign quickly received endorsements from the global community, and even Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and CZ Binance supported Nigerians in the fight against police brutality. Funds were also donated on social media both in fiat and cryptocurrencies to support the protesters.
Regulating Social Media
Seeing the role of social media in the protests, the Nigerian government resurrected the Anti-social Media Bill it proposed last year. But authorities continue to claim that curbing fake news is the primary goal of the bill.
According to the country’s minister for information and culture, Lai Mohammed, Nigerian youths mobilized themselves for the protests through social media; thus, regulating social networks has become necessary.
“They mobilized using social media. The war today revolves around two things. Smartphones and data. We are sitting on a time bomb on this issue of fake news. Unfortunately, we have no national policy on social media and we need one. When we went to China, we could not get google, Facebook, and Instagram. You could not even use your email in China because they made sure it is censored and well regulated,” he said.
The Need For Decentralized Networks
The current situation in Nigeria reflects the need and power of having censorship-resistant social networks. If the bill is passed into law, Nigerians will no longer have freedom of speech online.
Social media built on decentralized blockchains ensure that no single entity, including the government, can censor or control how or what users do on the platforms.