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Why Nigeria Has Finally Lifted Its Twitter Ban

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The Nigerian government has announced the lifting of its seven-month Twitter ban after the social media company agreed to meet certain terms. This is good news for Twitter because Nigeria is Africa’s biggest country by population and GDP.

Globally, big tech has come under scrutiny and assault by both democracies and autocracies alike. But what conditions did Twitter agree to in Nigeria?

And does the lifting of the ban reflect a win or another blow to big tech and free speech?

Why Did Nigeria Ban Twitter?

The ban stems from an incident in 2021. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari account posted a tweet in the middle of the year that was accused of promoting violence.

According to the BBC, the original tweet stated: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”

As a result, Twitter deleted the tweets on June 3, 2021, and limited the Nigerian President’s account to read-only mode for 12 hours. Nigeria’s president swiftly retaliated and banned Twitter in the country on June 4, 2021, less than 24 hours after they took action against his account.

Twitter responded to Nigeria’s ban by saying it was ready to meet the Nigerian government “for an open discussion to address mutual concerns and see the service restored”.

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Former US President Donald Trump issued a statement congratulating Nigeria for banning Twitter, adding: “Perhaps I should have done it while I was President. But Zuckerberg kept calling me and coming to the White House for dinner telling me how great I was.”

Why Has Twitter Been Allowed Back in Nigeria?

The Nigerian government reinstated Twitter on Jan 13, 2022, after Twitter agreed to conditions issued by the Nigerian government, according to CNN.

Notably, one of these conditions includes “managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian law”.

Twitter also has to comply with “applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law” as well as enroll Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals.


Related: The End of an Era: Is Big Tech in Trouble?

While the Partner Support Portal sounds innocuous, it provides government officials with a direct channel to manage prohibited content.

According to the statement by the Nigerian National Information Technology Development Agency’s Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi:

The Partner Support Portal provides a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules. At the same time, the Law Enforcement Portal provides a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian Laws.

Twitter has kept largely quiet about the saga since it was banned, so all we have to go on is the statement by Nigeria’s government. However, Twitter welcomed its return to Nigeria with a tweet:

It would also appear that Twitter and Nigeria have agreed to jointly moderate content in Nigeria, allowing Nigeria to directly engage Twitter if it goes against Nigerian laws.

It is not clear how effective the ban in Nigeria was, however. Many Nigerians have reported being able to get around the government blockade using VPNs.

However, moving forward, the government says it wishes to “adapt” Twitter, rather than ban it, according to Abdullahi.

Considering Twitter’s influence on our democracy, our economy, and the very fabric of our corporate existence as a Nation, our priority is to adapt, not ban, Twitter.

At the end of the government statement, Abdullahi urged Nigerian citizens to display “ethical behavior” on Twitter.

We encourage all users of the Twitter platform to maintain ethical behavior and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous, and distasteful information on the platform.

Related: Things That Could Get You Banned on Twitter

Big Tech Faces Challenging Times Ahead

Big tech is under pressure, particularly when it comes to authoritarian governments that won’t hesitate to limit internet platforms. But it also faces pressure among democracies, especially with regard to concerns over data handling and misinformation.

Some governments, however, do seem to be adopting a strategy that requires big tech to play by its rules when it comes to political motives.


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