Nigeria banned Twitter in country after president’s tweet removed | Legislation

Twitter was suspended indefinitely in Nigeria after removing a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari last week. In the post, he made threats to a group of secessionists in the south of the country, which was considered a violation of the rules against abusive behavior. Justice has promised to prosecute anyone who tries to avoid blocking the platform through VPNs.

Twitter banned in Nigeria (Image: Jeremy Zero/Unsplash)

Twitter banned in Nigeria (Image: Jeremy Zero/Unsplash)

Justice wants to sue anyone who breaks Twitter blocking

The Nigerian Ministry of Culture and Communication used its own Twitter account on Friday (4) to publicize the indefinite blocking of the app. The federal agency claimed that the reason for the suspension was “the persistent use of the platform for activities that potentially threaten Nigeria’s operational capacity”.

The country’s attorney general’s office also threatened to take legal action against anyone who breached the blockade; government agencies are cooperating to “ensure rapid punishment of offenders without delay.” Nigerian users were bypassing Twitter suspension by using VPNs.

Nigeria’s president used Twitter to make threats

Muhammadu Buhari used Twitter on Wednesday (2) of last week to accuse a separatist movement of attacking government buildings. These secessionists advocate the restoration of a nation in the Biafra region. In the 1980s, this dispute resulted in a civil war that left more than 1 million people dead. Nigeria’s current president was one of the highest-ranking generals in the government at the time and fought against separatists.

“Many of those who don’t behave are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of life that occurred during the Biafra War. Those of us who have been in the countryside for 30 months, who have gone through the war, will treat them [secessionistas] in a language they understand well,” Buhari wrote.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (Image: European Union 2016 - European Parliament/Flickr)

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (Image: European Union 2016 – European Parliament/Flickr)

Twitter’s Public Policy team said in a tweet on Saturday that it was “very concerned” about the network’s blocking in Nigeria and was working to restore it. A test done by Reuters showed that the platform was banned by some mobile operators, but that it was still possible to access the app and the desktop version at network providers in Lagos and Abuja, two of the main cities in the country.

The blockade comes months after Twitter opened its first headquarters in Africa, in neighboring Ghana. The social network says its decision was influenced by the Ghanaian government’s positive stance on freedom of expression. This infuriated Nigeria’s communications ministry, which accused the platform of being negatively influenced by local media.

Twitter could also face retaliation in India

The retaliation for Twitter did not only persist in Nigeria. Also last week, India – which has been confronting American big techs about its stance on Indian users – said the social network could suffer “unintended consequences” if it doesn’t conform to the country’s new platform policy. The company has displeased the government: by classifying an ally’s post as “manipulated media”, the company’s headquarters was searched by Indian police on 24 May.

The new Indian law passed in May requires platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to remove content within 36 hours by court order. It also provides that each network will have a contact available 24 hours a day to assist police and security agencies.

The message is clear in the letter from the Ministry of Technology of India sent on Saturday (5): Twitter still does not meet the requirements of the new law and can be legally punished for any content on its platform. The social network did not comment on the letter.

With information: CNET, The Verge.

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