By APCNews ABUJA, 05 September 2013
With the recent plans of the Nigerian legislature to introduce liability to internet intermediaries in the country, there is a strong need to create awareness amongst its citizens. To shed light on this matter, Maureen Nwobodo, APC’s Google Policy Fellow, interviews Mr. Gbenga Sesan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative for Nigeria for APCNews.
APCNews: What role is Paradigm Initiative for Nigeria (PIN) playing with regards to internet intermediary liability?
Gbenga Sesan: Paradigm Initiative for Nigeria is an organisation based in Nigeria, that works on ICT building and ICT policy issues. Currently, PIN is partnering with the Association for Progressive Communications, in a project on internet intermediary liability, which involves creating awareness among stakeholders in Nigeria on the risks of making intermediaries liable. The organisation is working towards promoting campaigns to enable the general public understand the implication and trouble they would likely put their network providers into if they do anything illegal online. Also, to enlighten telecom companies, ISPs, IAPs (internet access providers) and even cybercafés to understand that as intermediaries, they could be liable for the illegal activities that are done on their network.
APCNews: Do you feel that internet intermediaries should be liable?
GS: That’s a tricky question. My simple answer is “no,” but that’s not my final answer. Internet intermediary liability has generated a lot of debate. While it seems inevitable, as a result of the criminal use of online resources, it is unfortunate to see that a trend is created whereby the blame is shifted to the intermediaries. Several industries do not understand issues surrounding copyright and online policies, so there is a tendency for them to say: “If your service is used to commit a crime, then you are definitely liable for said crime.” Such policies are rather unfair and need to be reconsidered. When an individual takes advantage of a network to commit a crime, and the network provider is unaware of such activities, such intermediary should not be liable for said crime. But if the intermediary has been notified by another party about the crime committed on their network, and the network provider investigates and confirms it’s true, but still allows such person to continue said crime on their network, then they should be liable.
APCNews: Why do you think the issue of internet intermediary liability is important now in Nigeria?
GS: The reason why it’s important now in Nigeria is so we do it right. The issue of internet intermediary liability needs to be properly discussed now because as with many other things new in societies where they do not exist, they are prone to be abused if they are not understood.
We need to understand internet intermediary liability, so as to ensure that people wouldn’t take advantage of the weakness of the law to ferment trouble and accuse people wrongly.
APCNews: How would the Copyright Amendment Bill if passed into law affect the flow of information in Nigeria?
GS: I don’t think the Copyright Amendment Bill has any provisions that could affect the flow of information in Nigeria. The focus of the amendment bill is the introduction of “technical measures” in protecting copyrights as it already exists. However, the burden of proof seems to remain with the accused, and this could be exploited considering the context of Nigerian judicial processes, where accused persons are mostly guilty until proved innocent.
APCNews: What measures or actions would you recommend internet intermediaries in Nigeria take, so as to ensure that a limitation to liability is added to the Copyright Amendment Bill?
GS: The first question to ask is: Are the internet intermediaries even aware of the Copyright Amendment bill? It is imperative for us to understand that many of them are not aware of this bill and other ICT policies and this is because in Nigeria discussions don’t always involve all stakeholders.
APCNews: Of what importance to internet intermediaries in Nigeria was the recent Internet Governance (IG) School meeting in Durban?
GS: That was the first African Internet Governance School. It was a great platform to observe and see that the issue on internet intermediary liability affects many countries across regions. At one end are the policy makers who just heard about internet intermediary liability and want to implement it even though they do not understand it properly and at the other end are the stakeholders who are not even aware of what is going on in their respective countries.
APCNews: What has been the impact of Nigeria’s national Internet Governance Forum?
GS: Nigeria internet Governance Forum has been an opportunity for Nigerians to formally discuss the global process. It has been an opportunity for Nigerians to form an agenda and also a platform for discussing internet polices as it regards intermediaries.
PIN is supporting the hosting of internet intermediary workshops in Nigeria, to raise awareness amongst stakeholders. Watch out for more information as this project progresses.