The aspect of having social media sites banned by governments is not new really. You could simply go ahead and look up all the nations that do not allow the likes of Facebook and Twitter and the list is not short. But the circumstances that had Nigeria “indefinitely” suspending Twitter from its airwaves were no less than strange.
In case not aware by now, the social network found itself on the wrong side of the Nigerian government on June 5th after deleting a tweet posted by President Muhammadi Buhari. The tweet itself was regarded as a threat to a community in the country which is undoubtedly forced Twitter to act on it.
The situation got even stranger when the office of Nigeria’s attorney general and ministry of justice said it would arrest and prosecute anyone who would try to get around the ban. This includes people who tend to use VPNs so as to keep getting access to their Twitter accounts. It was even reported that government agencies were instructed to cooperate with prosecutors “to ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders without any further delay.”
The authorities went further by promising to have an internet firewall installed to ensure that no one in the country accesses the platform in any way possible. We have seen similar actions made by dictatorial governments like China.
What caught our attention is the ironic fact that the very same authorities had to use the very same platform they suspended to announce all this.
— Fed Min of Info & Cu (@FMICNigeria) June 4, 2021
We could also speak about the fact that they also used Twitter’s old logo that is no longer part of the platform’s branding. But what’s vital would be to address the fact that many people across the West African nation who depend on the platform for income are more than likely now left stranded.
As much as social media is a platform for everyone to freely air their views on different aspects of life, it is clear that these sites are responsible to regulate statements content posted. This is especially important when it comes to statements posted by international leaders and President Buhari is no exception.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Biafra war,” he wrote. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
By reading the deleted tweet, one does not need a grammar professor to tell what President Buhari was implying. And in a country that knows what violence brings, such tweets should certainly be treated as more than dangerous.
Twitter certainly found this action disturbing and also spoke out condemning the suspension.
We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society.
We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #KeepitOn
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) June 5, 2021
Everyone has had their opinion on the issue and many linked to the country in various ways have had a say on whether the suspension is right or not. And what better place to speak about Twitter than on Twitter itself?
You don't claim to love a country by imposing on the citizenry a sectarian interest. When you do, it is for the advancement of a class and not the people! Nigerian twitter ban is a class interest that must be resisted head on! It does not in any way represent the people's will!
— Waliu Alao (@waliualao) June 6, 2021
Most Nigerians are offended by the suspension of @President Buhari’s tweeter platform. We are fighting all kinds of violent groups and the president’s comment should be seen in that context. Tweeter should review it and drop the suspension.
— Hon Abdul S. Oroh (@aoroh) June 7, 2021
Banning of Twitter by Nigerian government is an abuse of power, unconstitutional, undemocratic and abuse of fundamental human rights of free expression and access to information. Calling on president Mohammadu Buhari to swallow his pride and reverse this obnoxious ban on Twitter.
— TONY (@TONY34902871) June 7, 2021