World Nigeria's indefinite Twitter ban sounds the alarm on free speech
Twitter needs India and Nigeria to grow. It's running into trouble in both
The news social media rules in India and the ban in Nigeria are challenging for Twitter, considering how sizable its growth opportunities are in both markets.The social media giant has been ensnared in a battle with the Indian government for months over free speech and other issues, and is contending with restrictive new rules pushed by New Delhi. If that wasn't enough, even more dramatic events are unfolding thousands of miles away along Africa's Western coast.
Last Friday, the Nigerian government announced on Twitter that it had indefinitely suspended the platform.
The move came two days after Twitter deleted a controversial tweet that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari made about a secessionist movement.
Nigeria Goes on Twitter to Announce It Is Banning Twitter
The African government's move comes after the social media site deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Information and Culture made the announcement on Friday. The move follows Twitter's deletion of a tweet from the country's president, Muhammadu Buhari, earlier in the week.
In recent months, pro-Biafra separatists with the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in southeastern Nigeria have been accused of attacking police and government buildings. In his tweet, Buhari vowed to “treat them in the language they understand.”
Twitter deleted Buhari’s post last Wednesday, calling it abusive.
Buhari's indefinite Twitter ban has raised concerns about free speech in Nigeria and also the perhaps outsized power of a US-based social media company to silence a Nigerian president.
The World spoke with Nigerian writers Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani andabout the Twitter scandal that has many talking online and offline about its implications.
Twitter is banned in Nigeria after it removed president's tweet
The site has been blocked in the country, and the government has reportedly ordered authorities to arrest and prosecute Twitter users. "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," Twitter said Saturday, in a tweet from its public policy account. "We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world."Twitter, Facebook and other social sites have been trying to figure out how best to deal with controversial tweets from politicians.
Túbọ̀sún, based in Lagos, said that the Twitter ban signals the government's slide into a dictatorship.
Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, writer, Lagos
"Not only were they trying to muzzle Twitter or prevent [people] from using it, they started talking about criminalizing the use of the platform..."
"Not only were they trying to muzzle Twitter or prevent [people] from using it, they started talking about criminalizing the use of the platform, which has crossed from just a government regulation into actually the stifling of free speech and the freedom of the press," he said.
"They were compelling media houses to delete their Twitter handles. ... [This is] reminiscent of a time in the past when a president can just say something through a decree," noting that Buhari already has a reputation for shutting down dissent.
Nwaubani, based in the capital of Abuja, said that Twitter's decision to delete Buhari's controversial tweet sets up an inconsistent double standard that's nearly impossible to regulate across the board.
Donald Trump hails Nigeria Twitter ban
The former US president urges other countries to restrict use of social media platforms."Who are they to dictate good and evil, if they themselves are evil?" Mr Trump said in a statement.
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, writer, Abuja
"I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with some millennial, you know, swiveling on a chair in the Silicon Valley — seeing outrage from Nigerians, and he doesn't know how many Nigerians, he doesn't know what section [of Nigeria], he doesn't understand the context — and just comes and deletes the tweets of a president of an African country."
"As much as the tweet was ill-advised," she said, "I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with some millennial, you know, swiveling on a chair in the Silicon Valley — seeing outrage from Nigerians, and he doesn't know how many Nigerians, he doesn't know what section [of Nigeria], he doesn't understand the context — and just comes and deletes the tweets of a president of an African country. I think that was also ill-advised," she said.
Nwaubani noted that the Biafran separatist group also has provocative tweets that remain online and so do other presidents and high-level leaders in Africa.
"If you're going to [delete Buhari], then ... go to every president around Africa," she said. "You can't just single out the president of a country and just delete a conversation he's having with these people."
Nigeria bans Twitter after president's tweet deleted
Nigeria banned Twitter on Friday after the platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it violated their abusive behavior policy."The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria," the country's ministry of information posted on Twitter Friday.The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria," the country's ministry of information posted on Twitter Friday.
Túbọ̀sún's counterpoint: It's not about Africans vs. non-Africans or Silicon Valley young people versus political heads — it's about rules and regulations for all.
Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, writer, Lagos
"What we should demand is that the rules be equally applied. ... The president is not above the law. If you're signed [on] to use the platform, you should definitely abide by the rules."
"What we should demand is that the rules be equally applied," he said. "The president is not above the law. If you're signed [on] to use the platform, you should definitely abide by the rules."
Nwaubani said Buhari's Twitter ban is likely more to do with a bruised ego and protecting his strong-man image than anything else.
Túbọ̀sún hopes the lesson here is that no matter how bruised a president's ego, it's still the job of a democratically elected government to protect citizens' right to free speech.
But "Nigeria wouldn't grind to a halt if Twitter disappears," said Nwaubani, who noted that out of Nigeria's 200 million people, only about 16% use social media.
Still, there are an estimated 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria, and many are now using virtual private networks to log onto the popular platform, despite warnings that they could face arrest.
This article is written based on an interview and has been edited and condensed for clarity. AP contributed to this report.
Trump congratulates Nigeria, which he once called a 's---hole' country, for shutting down Twitter .
Trump also suggested more countries should ban Twitter. Repressive governments like Iran and China already censor social media platforms like Twitter."Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President. More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech - all voices should be heard," Trump said in a statement.