I think this debate would have been complete with an attorney who is well versed with social media i.e. yours truly. So, yes, next time Channels TV, feel free to contact my office and I will gladly call in from the USA to give that much needed perspective in the debate.
I agree, however, with Gbenga Sesan that social media should not be regulated, broadly speaking, in Nigeria. First, Nigeria does not check its legal justice system at the door just because of the emergence and use of social media. As one who has worked for five years now on the back and front end of social media, including advising on the law, here is the simple breakdown on why social media should not be regulated:
Nigeria like the USA, has existing laws on the books. All they need to do is enforce it.
1. When a crime is perpetrated using social media, criminal laws exist to prosecute as in the Cynthia Osokogu murder case. Even better for law enforcement is the “discovery” of the social media evidence that makes it an open and shut case for a guilty verdict.
2. When defamatory or libelous statements are made on social media, existing laws i.e. Tort law exists for Plaintiffs who are wronged to seek remedy in a court of law. The evidence to be used in court is easily “discoverable” through a court ordered subpoena.
3. I believe Tolu asked what one would do if false statements are made on social media about a person. Beyond the filing of a suit, the non-legal route is a noticed letter to the ISP to ask that such a content be removed or the site taken down pursuant to their terms and conditions. This applies to twitter and facebook who also have a terms and condition language for use. I have discussed this strategy here on AML, in detail, in the past.
Also, I have said, before, that while you may have a right to free speech (certainly here in the USA), you do not have a right to be free from the consequences of that free speech. So, if free speech gets you defaming another person, expect to be slapped with a lawsuit or the public to respond in its own way i.e. refuse to buy your products or services etc.
The host/presenter asked about the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ killings and essentially plays devil advocate by saying that, but for that video, there would be no killings or rioting. To use social media expressions as a license for killing is cowardice.
Are there instances where further regulation of social media, independent of what is currently on the books, might apply? Sure. California’s legislature just passed a new tough social media privacy law. The law restricts businesses and schools in the state from demanding social media login details, among other things, from students, employees or job applicants. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Back to Nigeria, as it stands, Nigeria has sat on laws that already work and its citizens and legislators do not even know how to use the very legal system they created. Is the remedy now to restrict the voices of the masses because it is “insulting” state lawmakers? Of course not.
Finally, on the international front, good luck trying to form some sort of uniformity when it comes to regulating social media. Different cultures, different standards or laws on what is illegal or offensive. So, how exactly will this work?
Watch the debate below: