Nigeria’s Federal Government has said that it has indefinitely suspended Twitter in the country. This comes two days after the social media platform led by Jack Dorsey deleted a Twitter post by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari that spoke about punishing regional secessionists in the southeast of the West African country.
Reports coming out of Nigeria have also confirmed that the Twitter ban has been enforced with only people using VPN services able to access the social media platform.
"The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria." reads a statement by Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant To The President (Media), Nigeria's Office of the Minister of Information and Culture.
Social media censorship in Nigeria
This is not the first time that Nigeria, in recent years, has been involved in an incident related to social media censorship.
For about 2 consecutive weeks during October 2020, there were protests across Nigeria and online against police brutality. The protests caught international attention when the hashtag #EndSARS started trending worldwide on Twitter starting on 9 October 2020.
On 20 October 2020, during one of the many peaceful protests, this time at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos, in a series of what looks like premeditated events to try and prevent any spread of photos and videos from the shooting, the Nigerian Army massacred peaceful protesters as we witnessed on various live streams, videos, and photos.
Following the Lekki Massacre, Facebook and Instagram went on to mark most content related to the massacre as fake news. The company would go on to say this was a mistake by its algorithms, a hard to believe excuse considering the Nigerian government was simultaneously denying that the massacre did indeed take place.
Freedom of speech
It is not clear when the government of Nigeria plans to restore Twitter in the country.
Considering that Twitter is used by many in Nigeria to voice dissatisfaction with the current political leadership, the current Twitter suspension is also an infringement on the right to freedom of speech.
"Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand." is President Buhari's tweet that was deleted by Twitter.
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