On 4 June 2021, the Federal Government of Nigeria released a statement saying it has “suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.” This was about two days after President Muhammadu Buhari had a tweet deleted by Twitter because it was said to be inciting violence, in violation of Twitter’s content policy.
As such, Nigeria’s government retaliated by “banning” Twitter (although people using VPN services can still access Twitter) because of the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
This is not the first time that Twitter has deleted a President’s tweets or even suspended one. In January 2021, Twitter first started by flagging President Donald Trump’s tweets indicating they are false or unsupported by facts. This was followed by the platform deleting some of Trump’s tweets as they have done with President Buhari, and then they would eventually suspend him from using Twitter.
It is not my purpose to debate the moral, ethical, and legal merits of President Buhari’s tweet. There are better people positioned to talk about that. However, I will make it clear that inciting violence and discrimination is wrong.
As it was then with Trump, and as it is now with Buhari, this whole incident raises several contentious questions, chief among them being how much power should a social media platform such as Twitter have in determining what an elected President has to say? Equally, shouldn’t we when we criticize a sovereign state for taking action against a private and foreign company for undermining its President also equally be critical of Twitter for potentially setting a bad precedent that could shape political narratives in any country it decides to enforce such content regulation policies in?
This is not an easy debate to be had as obviously it involves potential incitement of violence, but the main question we should all be asking looking also into the future is whether we are comfortable with Twitter (and other Big Tech companies) determining what we should consume or not?
Or is such scrutiny and criticism only reserved for African governments when they enforce their “content regulation” policies?
🚫 It is fair to say Twitter is involved in a “twar” with the government of Nigeria. First, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted something which was probably flagged by Twitter as either hate speech or incitement of violence. Following that, Twitter decided to delete his tweet. Two days later, Nigeria’s government decided to indefinitely suspend Twitter in retaliation. In the middle of all of this are people in Nigeria who have to suffer the consequences of things they were not part of. Important to note though that people who use VPN services are able to access Twitter in Nigeria. Link
🗳️ Nigeria is not the only country that recently effected a social media ban, Uganda recently did the same and is notorious for effecting similar bans in previous years. As the recent Uganda elections example affirms, digital technologies are not going anywhere, and unless we act now, they will continue to be used by repressive governments and other actors to not only maintain the status quo but also erode the gains being made by people to challenge this. It is up to us, as citizens of Africa, to guard against this. Link
🚀 A new startup accelerator and investment fund have been opened in Namibia. The accelerator was announced by Startup Wise Guys, a European B2B startup accelerator, as they explained their plans to expand across Africa. Startup Wise Guys have indicated that they hope to introduce an additional four programs to East and West Africa by the end of 2022. Given the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across Africa, initiatives such as the new startup accelerator and fund in Namibia are important for startups in helping them recover from this. Link
📇 The 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census was a success on many counts. One of the key highlights was that the process was digital, where information was captured on handheld devices and transmitted to a central server almost in real-time. As such, the East African country has announced that it would share its census gadgets used by enumerators during its recent census drive with several other African countries. Already, Botswana, South Sudan, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, and Namibia have received 45,000 devices to help them carry out their census. Link
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