The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on Monday issued new regulations for Internet platforms available in Nigeria.
A statement signed by NITDA spokesperson, Hadiza Umar, said the new code was designed to protect the “fundamental human rights of Nigerians and non-Nigerians living in the country as well as define guidelines for interacting on the digital ecosystem.”
The code requires Internet platforms to “register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities.”
It also requires that they comply with all regulatory demands and comply with all applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.
On content moderation, NITDA said Internet platforms must “provide a comprehensive compliance mechanism to avoid publication of prohibited contents and unethical behaviour on their platform.”
They must also “provide information to authorities on harmful accounts, suspected botnets, troll groups, and other coordinated disinformation networks and deleting any information that violates Nigerian law within an agreed time.”
NITDA said the new rules were “developed in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as well as input from Interactive Computer Service Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google, and Tik Tok amongst others.
“Other relevant stakeholders with peculiar knowledge in this area were consulted such as Civil Society Organizations and expert groups. The results of this consultations were duly incorporated into the Draft Code of Practice.”
The draft Code of Practice notes that Internet platforms must promptly obey court orders directing it to provide “information under its domain or any assistance to any authorised government.”
It is not yet clear how the new rules will be implemented.
Nigeria suspended Twitter in June 2021 for several months after the social media network deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Buhari administration has sought to pass more stringent laws regulating Internet platforms, especially social media networks.
With gun control under debate and monkeypox in the headlines, Americans are facing a barrage of new twists on years-old misinformation in their social media feeds.
Accurate news stories about mass shootings have attracted eyeballs but algorithms have also spurred baseless conspiracy theories from trolls who want to push lies to attract traffic. And thousands have unwittingly shared them on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
The May 24 attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas was a “false flag” operation aimed at pushing restrictive gun laws, according to Telegram posts from supporters of QAnon.
Carl Paladino, a New York congressional candidate, was among those who shared a similar theory on Facebook, later deleting it.
Others misidentified a shooting victim as “Bernie Gores” — a made-up name paired with an image of a YouTuber who has been wrongly linked to other major news events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Experts say such misinformation is part of a pattern in which unscrupulous operators intentionally repurpose old narratives.
“A lot of this stuff is put together almost in this factory production style,” said Mike Caulfield, a misinformation researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public.
“You have a shooting event, you have these various tropes you can apply.”
Groundless claims of a “false flag” operation, which refers to political or military action that is carried out with the intention of blaming an opponent, can be traced back to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
After 20 children and six staff members were killed, InfoWars founder Alex Jones falsely claimed the Newtown casualties were “crisis actors” — people who are paid or volunteer to play disaster victims.
In November 2021, a Connecticut judge found Jones liable for damages in a defamation suit brought by parents of the victims.
But regardless, allegations of staged mass shootings have routinely spread from fringe online networks such as 4chan to mainstream platforms — including the social media feeds of politicians such as Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and, more recently, Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers.
Hoax posts misidentifying gunmen or victims as internet personalities have also become common.
In the race to capture online attention following breaking news, recycled narratives can be produced quickly and are easier for audiences to digest, Caulfield said. Content producers “make guesses” about what may go viral based on past popular tropes, which can help monetize that attention.
“When you spread this stuff, you want to be seen as in the know,” he said, even though the information is demonstrably false or misleading.
– Copying the Covid-19 playbook – Similarly, false claims about the recent spread of monkeypox — a rare disease related to smallpox — borrow from Covid-19 misinformation.
Since the outbreak, social media posts have claimed without evidence that the virus is a bioweapon, that the outbreak was planned, and that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is behind it. Others have falsely equated monkeypox to other viruses, including shingles.
Those claims resemble debunked conspiracy theories from the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Memetica, a firm that conducts digital investigations, has researched some of the top Covid-19 misinformation recycled for monkeypox. One widespread theory points to a 2021 threat preparation exercise conducted by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) as purported evidence that the outbreak was planned.
That conspiracy theory is nearly identical to claims about Event 201, a pandemic simulation held in October 2019, that circulated online in early 2020.
“What was surprising to me was how similar (Covid-19 misinformation) is now to monkeypox,” Adi Cohen, chief operating officer at Memetica, told AFP.
“It’s the same exact story — oh, this is all planned, it’s a ‘plandemic,’ here’s the proof.”
Some monkeypox theories have been shared by conservative figures including Glenn Beck and anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, according to Memetica’s research. Both have previously promoted misinformation about Covid-19.
Cohen said such tactics may be an effective way to get engagement on social media, regardless of the falsity of the information being shared.
“It’s the replication of what seems to work in the past,” he said. “Why work hard when you don’t have to?”
Mark Zuckerberg’s presence at the helm of Facebook parent Meta for “many, many years” would be perfectly natural, his global affairs director has told AFP, even as the founders of many tech companies hand off to fresh blood.
Succession at the mega company has been in the headlines in recent weeks with the announcement of the departure of Sheryl Sandberg after 14 years as the firm’s number two.
But while the founders of companies like Amazon, Twitter and Google have all moved on, Zuckerberg has shown no sign of giving up the reins — despite raging criticism over privacy scandals and the rampant spread of misinformation across Facebook.
Now as Meta rolls out its plans for the metaverse — the immersive virtual world that it considers the future of the internet — there’s no reason for the 38-year-old to go anywhere anytime soon, said Nick Clegg, the company’s director of global affairs.
“It’s a multi-year project. It would make sense to me that Mark Zuckerberg would want to continue, to build this new chapter of the company, and that’s going to last for many years, many years,” Clegg told AFP on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
“He is the founder of the company, of Meta, but he is also the architect of the new chapter, of this construction, of these augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.”
Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus in 2014 and launched a social VR platform.
The technology has taken off in the gaming industry, and become popular among players of Fortnite and Roblox.
But Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, said the metaverse promised great opportunities in the fields of education and medicine, as well as entertainment.
For example, he said, teachers can take their students on a virtual trip through ancient Greece, and medics can learn sophisticated surgical techniques.
And, he said, as hardware improves, the need for specialist equipment will diminish.
“In years to come, people will be able to access these new technologies through their phones,” he said.
“We are exploring how we can increase access to everyone and not just people who can afford the new and latest hardware.”
Meta’s second most powerful executive Sheryl Sandberg made the shock announcement Wednesday she will leave after a 14-year tenure that included helping steer scandal-prone Facebook to advertising dominance.
Sandberg, 52, has been one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley and her departure comes as the social media juggernaut faces an uncertain future and fierce competition.
Sandberg said on her Facebook page that she is stepping down as chief operating officer, but would remain on the board of parent company Meta.
“She has taught me so much and she has been there for many of the important moments in my life, both personally and professionally,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
“I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl.”
Sandberg’s departure news comes as what started as an online social network rebrands itself to pivot toward the virtual vision it sees for the internet in the form of the metaverse.
The Silicon Valley colossus has since seen its image tainted by accusations it has become of doing harm, putting profit over user privacy and even the good of society.
Meanwhile, the likes of TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and even Apple now vie with Meta for people’s online attention as Facebook social network is increasingly seen as a place for older people.
Zuckerberg said that Sandberg’s role won’t be replaced as it was at the company, but that Javier Olivan will become Meta’s next chief operating officer.
But the next COO will be more traditional, different from the close second-in-command status Sandberg holds, Zuckerberg said.
“I don’t plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure,” Zuckerberg said.
“I’m not sure that would be possible since she’s a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way.”
Meta shares fell more than two percent on word that Sandberg is leaving, another blow to a stock value that has plummeted after worries emerged the company’s regular growth was coming to an end.
The Federal Government on Wednesday said it has no plans to suspend Facebook over the alleged use of the platform to incite violence by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
But addressing journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said Facebook has assured that it will take action against posts that incite violence on its platform.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has asked Facebook and other social media platforms to stop allowing the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to use their platforms to incite violence and instigate ethnic hatred in Nigeria.
The Minister made the demand in Abuja on Tuesday at a meeting with a team from Facebook, according to a statement signed by spokesperson Segun Adeyemi.
He said since IPOB had been proscribed and classified as a terrorist organization, Facebook has no justification for yielding its platform to the organization to further its campaign of hate and destabilization of the country.
“I have called this meeting to enable us to discuss the increasing use of Facebook by separatists and anarchists, especially those of them based outside the country, to instigate violence and ethnic hatred in Nigeria,” Mohammed said.
“For whatever reason, they seem to have now chosen Facebook as their platform of choice. And their tools include disinformation, incendiary statements and hate speech. They use Facebook broadcasts to reach their followers, who are in thousands. They tag those opposed to their violent ways as ‘saboteurs’ who must be attacked, maimed and killed. They use both English and their local language as it suits them.”
He said the actions of the proscribed group have real-life implications, adding: ”By purveying hate and inciting violence, people are getting killed while private and public property are being attacked and destroyed. Security agencies and other symbols of government are their choice targets.”
The Minister said despite the numerous complaints to Facebook on the activities of IPOB, nothing has been done by the company to curtail the group’s excesses on the social media platform.
“Our social media people have been monitoring these separatists, anarchists and purveyors of hate, and have been reporting their atrocious actions to Facebook, but all they get are default responses that their complaints have been received and are being looked into. Most often than not, nothing is done about such complaints… The truth is that whatever Facebook is doing to check these people is mere tokenism and is totally ineffective,” he said.
Mohammed said the government would be monitoring Facebook and other platforms closely in the days ahead to ensure compliance with the demand, as it steps up the campaign for the responsible use of social media.
“We have always advocated a responsible use of social media, and consistently called on all stakeholders to join us in achieving this. Some have tagged our efforts as an attempt to stifle social media. They are wrong, because we have no intention of preventing Nigerians from using social media responsibly. All we have been advocating is a responsible use of social media,” he said.
Germany’s anti-cartel watchdog said Wednesday it has placed Meta, the company which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, under close watch for any possible abuse.
The Federal Cartel Office said it has determined Meta to be a company of “paramount significance for competition”, a move paving the way for the authorities to clamp down “against potential competition infringements”.
Meta therefore joins Google in falling under reinforced monitoring made possible by the German Competition Act, which came into force in January 2021.
The act allows the authority to intervene earlier, particularly against huge digital companies.
“The digital ecosystem created by Meta has a very large user base and makes the company the key player in social media,” said Federal Cartel Office chief Andreas Mundt.
Having determined Meta’s significance, the office is “able to intervene against potential competition infringements more efficiently than with the toolkit available to us so far”.
Meta has also waived its right to appeal the German office’s decision, he said.
Big tech companies have been facing increasing scrutiny around the globe over their dominant positions as well as their tax practices.
The EU and Britain in March opened antitrust probes into a 2018 deal between Google and Meta allegedly aimed at cementing their dominance over the online advertising market.
Israel’s internal security agency on Monday accused Iran of using a fake Facebook profile to try and get Israelis to collect information and harm people in their country.
Shin Bet’s allegation comes days after Israel claimed that the Islamic republic of Iran had plotted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, as global powers seek to revive a nuclear deal with Tehran.
According to the Shin Bet, the profile of a young Jewish-Canadian woman called Sara Puppi with ties in Israel was fake and belonged to an Iranian agent using the social network to befriend primarily Israelis.
After contact was made, Puppi would use the WhatsApp messaging app to try and persuade her new friends “to gather information on Israeli figures while gauging their willingness to harm them, using pressure and promising thousands of dollars”, the Shin Bet said.
“Emotional and romantic manipulations were also used,” the agency added in a statement.
It said that Shin Bet agents had posed as “friends” of Puppi — whose account had more than 2,000 friends before disappearing on Monday — and received a Bitcoin payment from her.
“The Iranian operative behind the account used a business cover story to give various missions,” the Shin Bet said.
Puppi expressed a will to harm LGBT people as well as “business representatives and diplomats from Arab countries operating in Israel”, it said.
Those behind the account also tried to damage Israel’s ties with Russia by encouraging people to criticise Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war, the Shin Bet said.
The Shin Bet told AFP they could link the account to Iran with intelligence they obtained.
Meanwhile, Israel claimed on the weekend it had “foiled” alleged bids by Iran “to assassinate a US general in Germany, a journalist in France and an Israeli diplomat in Turkey”.
The plots “were ordered, approved and funded by the senior leadership of the Iranian regime and were intended to be executed by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)”, said a statement from the prime minister’s office.
A suspect, named as Mansour Rasuli, was detained and interrogated by Mossad agents in Iran and allegedly confessed he had been tasked by the Islamic republic to carry out the killings, it said. Rasuli was then freed.
The premier’s office refused to provide further details and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.
A Russian court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram as “extremist”, part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.
The Russian authorities have accused US tech giant Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — of tolerating “Russophobia” since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
Facebook and Twitter have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country a week ago.
Moscow’s Tverskoi district court acceded to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for “carrying out extremist activities”.
It ruled that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not used to post public statements.
There was no immediate comment from Meta.
Also on Monday, according to Russian press agencies, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked access to euronews.com, the website of the French channel Euronews, and its Russian version ru.euronews.com, at the request of the prosecutors office.
No reason was given for the action.
Earlier this month Roskomnadzor blocked access to the BBC’s main news website, with Moscow’s foreign ministry warning of more retaliatory measures against the media.
During Monday’s court hearing, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of working against the interests of Moscow and its army during the conflict.
“The activities of the Meta organisation are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court in a statement reported by Russian news agencies.
“We ask (the court) to ban Meta’s activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately,” he said.
Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians.
But in what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.
– Is posting safe? – In court, a Meta representative said that “following public debate” the company had now changed its policy and deemed that “Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable”.
Experts said on Monday it remained unclear whether it was now illegal for ordinary Russians to post on Facebook and Instagram.
Net Freedoms Project said Russians could use Meta’s social media “carefully” — for now.
The rights project noted that the prosecution said Russians cannot be prosecuted for simply using the social media.
“This means that it can be safe to have accounts and post on Instagram and Facebook,” Net Freedoms Project said.
It pointed out however that those purchasing Facebook and Instagram advertising could be prosecuted for financing an extremist organisation.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, this month said it was launching a probe “due to illegal calls for the murder of Russian nationals by employees of the American company Meta”.
Meta boasts billions of users globally across its apps.
Facebook and Instagram were widely used in Russia and the latter was the most popular social media platform among young Russians.
For many small Russian businesses, Instagram was a key platform for advertising, processing sales and communicating with clients.
The United Nations had voiced alarm at Facebook’s decision to temporarily ease its policy on violent speech after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, warning it could spark “hate speech” against Russians.
The UN voiced alarm Friday at Facebook’s decision to temporarily ease its policy on violent speech after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, warning it could spark “hate speech” against Russians.
The policy decision from Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta on Thursday said the platforms would now allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians.
“This is clearly a very, very complex issue, but it does raise some concerns under the terms of human rights law and international humanitarian law,” UN rights office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
In its statement Thursday, the firm pointed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24.
“We have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders,” it said.
It added that it “still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians”.
Throssell warned that the new policy lacked clarity, which “could certainly contribute to hate speech directed at Russians in general”.
“That would be really concerning,” she said, adding that the UN rights office planned to raise its concerns with Meta.
“We may encourage them to look at certain harms that come with this change of policy,” she said.
Throssell acknowledged that the issue was legally complex and freedom of speech concerns also needed to be considered.
“In an ongoing conflict, seeking violence against those who are directly engaged in hostilities would likely not be prohibited speech,” she said.
“This needs more analysis from our side, and also more information from Meta.”
Donald Trump’s new social media app started a gradual rollout late Sunday and should be “fully operational” by late March, potentially raising the former president’s profile more than a year after he was banned by major platforms.
“This week, we will begin to roll out to people on the Apple App store,” said Devin Nunes, CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), parent company of the new app Truth Social.
The former Republican congressman was speaking Sunday on conservative Fox News.
“I think, by the end of March, we’re going to be fully operational — at least within the United States,” added Nunes, who resigned from the US House to lead the Trump group.
Trump has described Truth Social as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all of which banned him following the assault on the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.
The former president has been accused of inciting his followers to use force in a bid to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
On Sunday, the App Store was allowing visitors to pre-order Truth Social starting Monday, the Presidents Day holiday in the United States.
Later Sunday, the app was reported as available to some of those who had pre-ordered.
“It’s actually very moving for me to see people that are on the platform that have had their voice canceled,” Nunes said.
‘The Truth Is Coming’
“We want (customers) to tell us what they would like to have on the platform, which is the opposite of some Silicon Valley tech oligarch freak telling people what they want to think and deciding who can or cannot be on the platform,” he said.
Trump and his wife Melania Trump also plan on Monday to offer for sale 10,000 NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, illustrating key moments in the Trump presidency. NFTs are certified digital images that can be bought and sold.
“TRUTH is coming…” congresswoman Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, tweeted Friday, in an allusion to the ominous “Winter is coming” catchphrase of television series “Game of Thrones.”
She posted a screen grab of her message on Truth Beta, the test version of the new site, saying, “I’m so excited to be on TRUTH!”
And Donald Trump Jr. celebrated on Twitter, posting, “Time for some Truth!!!” and including what he said was his father’s first post on Truth Social: “Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!”
TMTG, asked for comment by AFP, did not immediately respond.
The group reportedly has a $1.25 billion treasure chest as it seeks a niche in a crowded conservative social-media marketplace, currently served by platforms such as Gettr, Parler and Gab.
Before being banned by Twitter, Trump had some 89 million followers there and used the platform constantly, both for presidential statements and to attack rivals.
Trump, who is 75, has hinted but never definitively said whether he will seek the presidency again.
He is currently under the shadow of multiple investigations and lawsuits, including over his tax filings and his efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election.
Facebook’s parent firm Meta said Monday it has no plans to pull its services from Europe, after raising the possibility amid an ongoing row over transferring European data to the United States.
Data is central to the ad business that generates nearly all of the company’s billion of dollars in revenue, and frameworks that have overseen the transfer of information from the continent are now in limbo.
“We have absolutely no desire and no plans to withdraw from Europe, but the simple reality is that Meta, and many other businesses, organisations and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate global services,” the firm said in a statement.
The crucial “Privacy Shield” online data arrangement between Europe and the United States was invalidated in July 2020 in a top EU court decision that threw transatlantic big tech into legal uncertainty.
Meta also noted in a filing Thursday to US market regulators that the bases it uses for data transfer are also in legal and regulatory jeopardy.
“If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted… we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe,” Meta wrote in its Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
European authorities and the US government are still talking through ways to resolve the issue.
The social media giant recently saw its worst-ever plunge in market value, after disappointing quarterly results that raised questions about its future.
Its signature Facebook platform saw a small dip in daily users globally at the end of 2021, the first such decline for a platform relentlessly focused on growth.
The company’s preoccupation with adding users was central to the whistleblower scandal last year, in which leaked internal documents underpinned press reports saying the company prioritized growth over safety.