Nigeria advertising regulator sues Meta for $70m

Fresh from its decision to ban foreign actors and voice-over artists from Nigerian advertising, the bullish Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria is taking on the US tech giant.

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Nigeria’s advertising regulator has sued US tech giant Meta for N30bn ($70m), alleging that the services carry adverts through its Facebook and Instagram platforms without appropriate vetting and approval from the authorities.

The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) says it has instituted a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja targeting Meta Platforms Incorporated and its agent AT3 Resources Limited.

The regulator said that failing to ensure that adverts are vetted and approved is “illegal, unlawful and a violation of extant advertising Law in Nigeria” and had resulted in a loss of revenue to the federal government.

“ARCON is seeking N30b in sanction for the violation of the advertising laws and for loss of revenue as a result of Meta Incorporated’s continued exposure of unapproved adverts on [its] platforms. ARCON reiterate that it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on the Nigeria’s advertising space,” the organisation said in a statement.

Crackdown on foreign advertising

The lawsuit is the latest bullish move from ARCON, which in recent months has launched a crackdown on foreign advertising. In August, the regulator announced that Nigeria would become the first country to attempt to ban foreign models and voiceover actors from advertisements in a bid to boost homegrown talent and the local advertising industry.

“In line with the Federal Government’s policy of developing local talent, inclusive economic growth and the need to take necessary steps and actions aimed at growing the Nigerian advertising industry, the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria… bans the use of foreign models and voice-over artists on any advertisement targeted or exposed on the Nigeria advertising space with effect from 1st October 2022. All advertisements, advertising and marketing communications materials are to make use of only Nigerian model and voice-over artists,” said a statement from director-general Olalekan Fadolapo.

This is just the latest in a series of protectionist policies which have become a hallmark of the economic approach of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Tough environment for social media

ARCON’s lawsuit, to which Meta and AT3 Resources Limited have yet to publically respond, is the latest challenge to social media companies operating in Nigeria.

In January, Nigeria lifted its ban on US social media giant Twitter after seven months.

The initial ban came just a day after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari threatening punishment for regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings. 

Reports say that Twitter had agreed to open a local office, appoint a country head and pay domestic taxes in order to reopen. 

Despite Nigeria’s tangled history with social media, the advertising regulator insists that it is regulating advertising communications rather than Meta’s right to operate in the online media space, stating that it is “not regulating the online media space but rather advertisements, advertising and marketing communications on the online platforms in line with its establishment Act”.

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