As of Friday, June 4, 2021, Nigeria joined the increasing host of African nations with a history of a clampdown on the Internet or social media platforms.
The government, in an official statement by the Minister for Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed that it would be indefinitely banning the microblogging platform, Twitter, from operating in the country.
This comes after the platform deleted a tweet by Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, referencing the Nigerian Civil War. The tweet had been the subject of public outcry, with many users reporting it for various reasons.
This is not the first time the government has attempted Internet censorship. You might remember the “social media bill”, which was introduced in 2019 but was met with public objection because it was perceived to be a means to limit citizens’ right to free speech.
Why the ban? While there was no official reason given in the first statement, on Saturday, June 5, 2021, the government released another statement.
This time, the platform’s role in propagating misinformation and fake news was cited as the rationale behind the ban. Changing its previous stance, the ban was tagged temporary and no longer indefinite.
Legally speaking, the ban has been described as contravening the human rights of Nigerian citizens as contained in the Constitution. The right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to hold an opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, while not absolute, does not provide for abrogation in this manner.
Add to this, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has ordered the prosecution of anyone found using Twitter.
I will be delving into this aspect of the conversation later today. Set a reminder to check it out on Techpoint Africa.
If you’ve thought about the economic effects this might have, you should take a peek at this: 4 ways Nigeria’s Twitter ban could affect businesses.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Twitter users have taken to using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass the ban after telcos followed the government's directive and restricted access to the platform.
Certainly, this tactic is now normal practise whenever any attempt is made at Internet censorship in Africa, but it may not be the safest approach.
Our reporter, Victoria Fakiya, would be giving a much-needed analysis on this later today. Don’t forget to watch out for this story.
To get a general idea of the reactions so far, hilarious and contemplative, check out, Nigerians react to FG suspension of Twitter.
But it appears Nigerians might have a lot more to worry about soon.
On Sunday, June 6, 2021, the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) reported that the government has reached out to China’s Cyberspace regulator to build Nigeria’s Internet firewall.
If this news is anything to go by, an Internet firewall similar to China’s Great Firewall would not only prevent access to any platform of the government's choosing but also block the use of VPNs.
Sudden decision? Probably not. FIJ reports that discussions surrounding this decision have been on since the #EndSARS protests, which took place in 2020. Supposedly, the government has been desperate to control the Nigerian cyberspace following the role social media played in the protests.
Nigeria seems to be following in China's footsteps, from its decision to start collecting International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers to the Twitter ban, and now an Internet firewall.
Undoubtedly interesting enough to warrant some scrutiny. Check out Bolu Abiodun’s story on this later today.
You guessed right after all. The rhyming word is ban. Great minds...
In case you missed it
- Nigeria has lost 15.5 million subscribers following the SIM registration ban.
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- It might get harder for budding African creators to make money with YouTube’s new terms of service.
- Nigeria’s Siltech produces electric vehicles, for a clean and elegant Africa. Read
What else I’m reading
- Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, is considering hard wallet production. Read
- #BlackLivesMatter continues to inspire Zimbabwe’s online activists. Read
- Twitter ban rewinds Nigeria to pre-internet darkness and reign of fear. Read.
Have a great week!