How Nigeria’s Twitter ban will affect people and businesses | Social media messages
Lagos, Nigeria – Emmanuel Alumona, a front-end developer from Lagos, discovered early Saturday that he couldn’t access Twitter on his phone.
The day before, the Nigerian government announced that it would suspend Twitter’s activities in the country for an indefinite period of time because “the platform is constantly being used for activities that could endanger Nigeria’s business existence”.
The ban in Africa’s most populous country came two days after the social media giant deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules.
“I thought it [Twitter’s suspension] was a joke, “said Alumona, 24, who now uses Twitter over a VPN.
“I didn’t expect the government to go that deep. Twitter is like my newspaper. Whenever I want to check what’s going on in the country, I update my timeline. Unfortunately, when I woke up on Saturday, my homepage wasn’t loading, ”Alumona told Al Jazeera.
The ban on Twitter – a platform that helped the ruling party win in the 2015 presidential election – is part of the government’s plan to regulate social media.
In 2017, Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed blamed the “siege of disinformation and fake news” on social media.
Shortly thereafter, a National Council on Information (NCI) was set up to recommend the establishment of a council to regulate the use of social media.
Good morning, I know we are already adapting, but more is to come and would we keep adapting until our rights are completely excluded? #Keepiton pic.twitter.com/CME9taXzvE
– seekthelordfirst🇯🇲 (@MorrisBaker_) June 7, 2021
In 2019, the Minister of Information endorsed an anti-social media law, entitled: Protections from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations, sponsored by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa of the ruling APC party.
The government also ordered internet services like WhatsApp, Zoom, Netflix and Skype to get licenses from the National Broadcasting Commission before operating in the country.
“Registration is clearly a pretext for regulation,” said Joachim MacEbong, senior analyst at SBM Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analyst. said Al Jazeera.
“They show that they are ready to act against democratic freedom. The next two years will be difficult. “
In 2015, President Buhari, who arrested hundreds of people after taking power in 1983, used social media as part of an election strategy that portrayed him as a “converted democrat” when he took office for the fourth time.
Buhari was overthrown in another coup in 1985 before being elected president in 2015.
Analysts say Buhari’s government is reminiscent of his 1984 military regime, imposing draconian legislation allowing the government to detain any journalist or civil society member who “embarrassed” the country’s military leader.
Several journalists were arrested or charged with treason under his administration.
In 2021, Nigeria was ranked 120th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index (RSF).
Nigeria has been hailed as one of the few African countries to attract investment in its tech ecosystem, but was recently shunned when Twitter selected neighboring Ghana for its first African headquarters.
Twitter recently removed a post from President Buhari threatening to punish regional secessionists [File: Reuters]
About 39 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, more than Ghana’s total population of 32 million.
Twitter’s decision to vote Ghana over Nigeria was made clear in a statement in which the organization described Ghana as “a champion for democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom and the open internet”.
“It’s been less than two months since Twitter opened its Ghanaian headquarters, and they’ve been proven right,” MacEbong said.
“This ban will keep investors away. Global tech companies that want to have a presence in Africa are more likely to look at a place like Ghana than a place like Nigeria. “
Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise advocating for digital inclusion and rights, agrees.
He says the suspension of Twitter sends the wrong signal to overseas investors, adding that small businesses using Twitter for livelihoods in Nigeria will be affected.
“Companies in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, showcase their brands and communicate with various stakeholders. That will definitely be influenced by this unpredictable decision, ”Sesan told Al Jazeera.
After Twitter was banned, users across the country flooded the platform via VPNs to express their anger and disappointment.
The Nigerian Attorney General has ordered immediate prosecution of Nigerians attempting to circumvent the government’s Twitter ban after the government shut down.
Late on Saturday, the diplomatic missions of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement condemning the Nigerian government’s decision.
Back in Lagos, Alumona tweeted his VPN with other Nigerians under the hashtag #KeepitOn.
Despite using a VPN, Alumona is scared.
“The way things are going, as a Nigerian, I’m scared because we don’t know what’s next,” he said.
“This will affect our ability to stand up for the truth and hold the government accountable.”