FG suspends @Twitter operations in Nigeria! Read through to find out shocking implications…
“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” those are the words we use to describe the need for leaders to be selfless by putting the welfare of citizens and the state above self and pride. But in most often than not, we don’t mean what we say, and little wonder we can’t live what we say.
The above situation played out in the recent event that took place where the Nigerian government indefinitely suspended the operation of Twitter in the Nigerian state generally.
What is Twitter? A Concise Historical Wrap-Up
Twitter is a social network of microblogging platform managed by the company Twitter Inc. It allows a user to send free messages, called tweets, on the internet, by instant messaging, or by SMS. These messages are limited to 280 characters.
The platform was created on March 21, 2006, by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass. The online service quickly became popular. According to Statista, Twitter had 187 million monetizable daily active users worldwide as of the third quarter of 2020. Twitter is also available in over sixty languages.
The headquarters of the company is in San Francisco, USA.
What led to the ban of Twitter in Nigeria?
The Nigerian federal government suspended Twitter indefinitely “because of the persistent use of the platform for activities that are likely to undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence”“.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the country’s minister of information and culture, announced the news in a statement posted on Twitter.
“The federal government has suspended the operation of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter in Nigeria for an indefinite period.”– Fed Min of Info & Cu (@FMICNigeria) June 4, 2021
The Federal government’s step to suspend the use of the platform nationwide, came a day after Twitter deleted President Mudhammadu Buhari’s tweet for violating the platform’s policies on abusive behavior.
The BBC was able to get a screenshot of the President’s controversial tweet before it was removed, and it read:
Many of those who misbehave today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of life during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us who have been in the fields for 30 months and have been through the war will treat them in the language we understand.
What are the Implications of Twitter Suspension in Nigeria?
The manager of a popular food place located in Satellite town by Abule Ado junction narrated their business ordeal to Vanguard following the suspension. He noted that they lost huge revenue since its Twitter handle stopped working because most of the food bookings come through the platform.
The story is the same with many other Nigerians who have learned how to take advantage of the platform to reach their potential customers.
According to data obtained from NOIPOLLS, the number of Twitter users in Nigeria is approximately 40 million.
While data from Netblocks revealed that country’s economy would be drawn back by N2, 177,089,051 daily.
While speaking to Afroeden, a student of Computer Science in one of Nigeria’s Federal Polytechnic, recounted how the ban crippled his freelancing business. The student who pleaded anonymity noted that he’s been sourcing and executing web design projects from Twitter since the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on an indefinite strike.
In his words, “This is indeed shameful. I have lost a lot of clients because I cannot access my Twitter account. I am aware that I can use VPN to mask my location and access Twitter, but the dangers are way too many that I don’t want to risk it.”
He called on the government to consider the welfare of millions of citizens before the ego of one individual. “With due respect to our dear President, the feelings and ego of one man should not be so protected at the expense of over 20 million Nigerians”.
Telecommunication companies like Glo, MTN, Airtel, and 9mobile in Nigeria are not left unaffected. They will experience a drop in data revenue following the ban.
The platform has also been a source of employment for most Nigerian citizens. It is not unusual to see a hitherto unemployed youth rising from zero to hero as an Influencer.
Today, the number of Influencers that have been recruited by public relations companies to promote brands is innumerable. This suspension will thwart their sources of income and also affect the reach of these brands.
From all indications, this imbroglio will further discourage international investors from coming into the country, and it won’t be a thing of a surprise if more firms pack up and leave the country.
The distinct attributes of the microblog have been exploited greatly by Nigerian politicians. Back in 2014, five Nigerian political players enjoyed celebrity statuses on Twitter. They include Reuben Abati, @abati1990 (then spokesman of President Goodluck Jonathan); Nasir El-Rufai, @elrufai (then deputy secretary of the opposition party); Femi Fani-Kayode, @realFFK controversial politician); Atiku Abubakar, @atiku (former vice president of Nigeria) and Obiageli Ezekwesili, @obyezeks (former minister). These individuals always made political news, having a great number of followers, and thus were ever more involved in Twitfights.
‘How Africa Tweets’, a study by Portland Communications revealed that Africans seem more politically engaged as political hashtags in the continent are higher in proportion than what is obtainable in the US, UK, France, and Canada.
Following the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, one is left to imagine how if the Nigerian government has sinister plans about the 2023 general elections, which could be best achieved if high-ranking social media platforms such as Twitter are gagged.
Implications in the International Sphere:
The indefinite suspension of twitter in Nigeria has also further dented the already sprawling image of the Nigerian nation. Following the announcement, reactions of disappointment trickled in from different quarters including the Canadian diplomatic missions, the European Union (Delegation to Nigeria), the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
Without a doubt, the international community will see Nigeria as a nation that has little or no respect for the fundamental human right of free expression.
The action is more like the nation intentionally dragging its name into the mud.
How did Twitter react to Nigeria’s ban?
Hours after Muhammad’s thread was posted, Twitter’s public policy team responded, saying it would work to restore access to users in Nigeria.
“We are deeply concerned about the Twitter lockdown in Nigeria. Access to the free and #open internet is an essential human right in modern society.
“We will work to restore access to everyone in Nigeria who relies on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #Go on– Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) June 5, 2021
“Access to the free and #open Internet is an essential human right in modern society,” it says in part of the tweet.
That phrase is pretty interesting – Twitter opened a new office in another West African city, Ghana, last April. The company described the country in its announcement in a similar language:
Why Ghana? As a champion of democracy, Ghana is an advocate of free speech, online freedom, and the open internet, which Twitter also stands for.
Some Nigerians were dissatisfied with the choice of company. Reuters revealed that Lai Mohammed alleged at the time that Twitter’s decision not to move its Africa offices to Nigeria was due to a misrepresentation of the country by the media.
Twitter versus its high profile policy violations
The platform has been giving plenty of reasons lately to keep a closer eye on politicians, public figures, and other influential users on its platform. At the end of May, the company felt the need to mark some tweets from Indian politicians as “manipulated media”.
Just recently, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) released a research report claiming that 12 influencers are responsible for most of the COVID-19 misinformation circulating on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.