The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, has stressed the importance of regulation on the influence and control of information technology giants in the internet space, saying that transparency by social media platforms was key to ensuring the safety of the citizens in cyberspace.
The remarks were made at Nigeria’s First Content Moderation and Online Safety Summit, where Professor Pantami was the special Guest of Honour. The hybrid event was organised by Advocacy for Policy and Innovation intelligence platform (API), and saw a cross section of key policy makers and tech startup INNOVATORS, as well as representatives of Big Tech COMPANIES, including Google and Meta in attendance.
In his address, the Minister, who was represented by the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Kashifu Inuwa, noted that the world has evolved to include a new form of power, in his view, Big Tech companies exist as faceless non-state actors with undue influence over the citizens.
Citing examples of flagrant manipulation of data of American citizens by Facebook in recent times, Professor Pantami highlighted that government must as a matter of urgency, stay on top of activities in the Cyberspace. He stated that this was a borderless ecosystem with unlimited access to intimate details of citizens, as such, their privacy and safety online must be a priority at all times.
Speaking further, Professor Pantami also advocated for collaboration among relevant stakeholders in the IT sector, and noted that regulators are always playing the catch-up game. The Minister said that regular engagements among all facets of the information and digital ecosystem where the tech companies are transparent about their activities, and policy makers note the intricacies of the system, would go a long way towards promulgation of laws and regulation that will create an enabling environment for digital business and tech companies to actualize their bottom lines, without sacrificing the safety of citizen-users in the cyberspace.
Director of API, Kassim Sodangi in his welcome remarks, opined that the internet has created opportunities like never before, conversely, it has also brought an onslaught of bad actors who spread disinformation, misinformation, hate speech, among other harmful content. He said that Government and other stakeholders have therefore had to act in the interest of the people.
Sodangi stated that Nigeria is in the lead in creating deeper and positive regulation in sub saharan Africa. He insisted that a multi-stakeholder and systemic collaborative approach is key to finding solutions that address the harms of content moderation, without infringing on freedom of expression rights.
The Summit with the theme “The challenge for content moderation and the opportunity to improve online safety in Nigeria,” opened up an intersectional conversation among big tech companies including Meta Nigeria and Google Nigeria, as well as policy makers, civil societies, local and international lawyers and policy observers on content moderation. The confab held with a view to appraising the regulatory landscape for content moderation and the limitations of extant law in the Nigerian Constitution, while seeking potentials for deeper collaboration to improve safety in Nigeria’s online space.