API hosts content moderation summit in Nigeria.

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The Advocacy for Policy and Innovation (API) intelligence and policy platform has organized Nigeria’s First Content Moderation and Online Safety Summit. The hybrid event which held at The Envoy hotel in Abuja, saw a cross section of policy makers, tech giants, civil societies, and international legal and regulatory experts in the information technology ecosystem in conversation with an aim to proffer solutions to the ever growing influence of the internet on Nigerian citizens.

In attendance were the Honorable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Professor Isa Ali Pantami, representatives from the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), representatives of Big Tech companies including Meta Nigeria and Google Nigeria, as well as local and international attorneys, compliance regulators, digital activists, and heads of tech labs and startups.

The theme of the summit “The challenge for content moderation and the opportunity to improve online safety in Nigeria,” set the stage for 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.

Director of API, Kassim Sodangi stated in his remarks that the internet has changed the world in many advantageous ways, creating opportunities for young innovators like never before, yet has also brought up a plethora of bad actors who create and disseminate harmful content, harvest information of unsuspecting users for nefarious purposes, among other cybercrimes.

Sodangi opined that Nigeria is in the lead to create deeper and positive regulation in sub saharan Africa. He also said that the summit aims to establish a platform from which all stakeholders within the ecosystem can proffer solutions, examining extant laws and regulations, and assessing it’s relevance in today’s fast-paced information technology world.

Special guest of honor, Professor Pantami who was represented by the DG of 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, and said that regulators are always playing the catch-up game because of non-transparency of tech platforms

“As regulators, we must not allow any system to have unaccountable power over the people; regular engagement where big tech is transparent about their activities, and use of citizens’ data will help us to create regulation that balances between keeping online content in check and protecting individual freedom of expression,” he said.

Delivering her key address remotely, Executive Director of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders; IWB), Julie Owono, stated that multi-systemic collaboration is intrinsic to finding solutions to content moderation that address the harms the internet and social media may bring without infringing in freedom of expression. She said Nigeria can lead the way on governance of content moderation on the continent by implementing policies made to enforce transparency to the public and the government, thereby, making accountability a mainstay in content moderation.

Google’s Government Affairs and Public Policy Manager, Dawn Dimowo, and Meta’s Public Policy manager, Meg Chang, along with several other panelists,
appraised the regulatory landscape for content moderation and the limitations of extant law in the Nigerian Constitution, and discussed potentials for deeper collaboration to improve safety in Nigeria’s online space.

By Maymunah Zubair