By Sulaiman Galma.
Last week, the Nigerian Cyberspace was thrown into a state of commotion when a video surfaced about a disturbed mother crying out for help of Nigerians after she was shown a video of her pre-teen daughter engaging in sexual activities with another boy who was later found out to also be a pre-teen whilst on a school trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Whilst bitterly lamenting and accusing the school of neglecting its chaperoning duties and also covering up “rape”, the video seemed to be garnering the sympathy of Nigerians up until the video she was complaining about surfaced on the internet. In true fashion, Nigerians made it trend, a very illegal and dangerous move.
The internet and computer networks have over the years seen a massive amount of improvement in a bid to improve the quality of communication between users. What we have now is a system that enables seamless communications and sharing of data with lightning speed and to an enormous amount of people and it is improving. This is testament to the great technological advancements of man. But this advancement has its bad sides. As technology aids the easy dissemination of the good things it also eases the efficient logistics of the bad. Computer networks and the internet are home to a lot of illegal activities, with a high amount of these activity occurring on social media. In Nigeria, most of the mobile telephony communications are done through social media with WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter ranking highest in popularity. Nigerians use these media to send millions of messages, videos, voice notes, documents and also make calls. A lot of times, these messages contain content of graphic and pornographic nature, which can be disseminated to a large amount of people in seconds. Also, these social media channels are easy to create which gives room for predators to hide behind the mask of anonymity to commit heinous crimes. The issue with most Nigerians is that most times they have no idea they are actually committing actual crimes by disseminating these messages and media. Some might view it as morally wrong but not a crime. Child pornography is sent to WhatsApp groups with warnings for parents to keep an eye on their wards. Nudes and Sex-tapes leaked by jilted lovers on twitter to show their anger or simply to get back at their exes in true “if I can’t have you, then nobody can” fashion. All these are crimes that happen almost on a daily basis on the Nigerian cyberspace with careless disregard. The Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention ETC) Act 2015 outlaws these offences that occur on the internet and computer networks and more. Child Pornography and Related Offences A disgusting offence both morally and legally, child pornography is when a child is depicted engaging in sexually explicit conduct. A child in this case is any person under the age of 18. The Act prohibits anybody from the production, offering or making of, distribution or transmission of, procurement(for oneself or another) of and possession of child pornography, prescribing upon conviction of prison terms of up to 10 years or fines of up to 20 million Naira. The Act further goes on to also outlaw solicitation of children through the use of system or networks and also coercion to engage in these acts whether it is done by a person of authority, a family member or a neutral person. Also prescribing stiff penalties of prison terms of up to 15 years and fines of up to 25 million Naira. These offences as could be seen from the stiff punishments are no joke but sadly are offences committed every day on the internet. Another troubling part of the internet is the leaking of nude images and sex-tapes especially on social media sites like Twitter and WhatsApp. This disgusting trend is being viewed as ‘hip’ with a lot of users teeming up to view the latest leaks. This has wrecked a lot of lives and the Cybercrime Act makes it an offence to knowingly make or send pornographic images to another by way of unsolicited distribution and if found guilty, an imprisonment term of One year or a fine of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira or both awaits the perpetrator. This effectively makes the making and distribution of nude images and sex-tapes a crime irrespective of the reason of making same.
A Leak Too Far!
Being that the persons in the leaked video were children, the video which has come to be known with several names across several social media platforms, is simply Child Pornography and as stipulated by the Cybercrime Act, illegal in its entirety.
And even though the legality and subsequent liability of making of that Chrisland video might be befuddled with all sorts of legal and technical interpretations (seeing that the makers of the video were kids themselves and could be argued to be below the age of criminal liability themselves) and which for the records does not make it right, it is in the subsequent distribution of that video across social media platforms that the law was continually obliterated. Users of these social media platforms were seen asking, no, begging to be pointed in the direction of the video after the video was leaked by somebody who had it in their possession, so they could feed their curiosity or judge for themselves as to whether the allegations were true, a shameful and illegal act to say the least, which is liable to stiff punishments.
The law needs to be enforced in order to protect these children and also put a deterrent to future occurrences.
The Cybercrime Act has been argued to have stiff fines and penalties, but in my opinion, the fines are commensurate as most cybercrimes are perpetrated by people hiding under the anonymity afforded to them by the internet and these crimes most times have global impacts. Child pornography made in Nigeria could find its way to Antarctica, so also the sex-tape leaked in India surfacing in Brazil whilst a cyber-troll could be on one end of the world and still make life unbearable for another in an entirely different society. Social media platforms have tried to regulate the propagation of cybercrimes by implementing laws that will curtail such. A lot of these platforms have really made headway in the curbing of vices like bullying, propagation of pornography, cyberstalking etc, yet these things are very much evident in social media platforms like Twitter. With the changing climes and more accountability being sought of these social media companies, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The law needs to be enforced in every situation it is required.
It is however sad that most computer and internet users know nothing about this law and its implications. It is therefore high time all computer and internet users in Nigeria get acquainted with this law to avoid stories that touch, as the well-known principle goes, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.