On Thursday, the House of Representatives took measures to safeguard Nigerian children from the perils of online violence and exploitation by passing the second reading of a bill titled the “Child Online Access Protection Act, 2023.” The aim of this legislation, sponsored by Hon. Olumide Osoba from Ogun State, is to address issues related to online violence against Nigerian children,leadership reports.
The bill proposes a framework designed to prevent and tackle the harms caused by serious online abuse and the dissemination of illegal or restricted online content. It underscores the importance of promptly reporting incidents and outlines steps for addressing various types of online abuse. Moreover, the bill suggests fines, imprisonment, and other penalties to discourage online aggression and violence.
The proposed legislation compels Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to materials depicting violent conduct, regulate illegal or restricted content regardless of the hosting platform, and remove intimate images and videos shared online that negatively impact children.
During the debate on the general principles of the bill, Hon. Osoba highlighted the increasing threat of online violence in the internet age, affecting children physically, sexually, and psychologically. While acknowledging the significance of the Nigeria Data Protection Act signed into law in June 2023, he emphasized the need for specific legal protection for children’s vulnerabilities in the digital space.
He expressed, “The internet has become a breeding ground for threats to our children, and the absence of mandates to sensitize and enlighten parents, government, and the public on the alarming increase in child abuse due to online activities calls for a robust legislative intervention. We cannot afford to underestimate the impact of the internet on our children.”
Hon. Osoba asserted, “Every child has the right to be protected from abuse, exploitation, and violence stemming from cyberbullying, cyber-extortion, identity theft, drug trafficking, phishing, and other forms of online abuse. Our child protection systems must be extensive and robust, ensuring the well-being and safety of our children.”
He underscored the need for collaboration among stakeholders, including legislators, religious leaders, parents, the police force, legal aid organizations, birth and death registry, the judiciary, media, social welfare offices, and ISPs. He argued that a comprehensive framework is crucial to shield children from online harm and urged his colleagues to support and pass the bill to provide a comprehensive shield against online violence targeting children.