Nigeria Suspends All Of Twitter After It Removes President's Tweet
from the you-want-to-talk-censorship? dept
If you want to see what censorship is, let’s take a look at Nigeria banning Twitter indefinitely in response to Twitter removing a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that it believed violated the site’s policies. The tweet was read to be a threat to brutally kill those engaging in attacks on public infrastructure, in particular police stations in Southeast Nigeria. Buhari’s tweet harkened back to the way dissenters were dealt with during the Nigerian Civil War:
“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,” Buhari wrote in the now-deleted tweet, referring to the brutal two-year Nigeria-Biafra war, which killed an estimated one to three million people, mostly from the Igbo tribe in the eastern part of the country between 1967-1970.
While the announcement that Twitter would be blocked does not reference its decision to remove that tweet, it instead says the ban is because of “”the persistent use of the platform for activities… capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” I honestly don’t understand what the hell that means. Basically, it seems like a twisting of the usual nonsense we see from some corners of the internet, who insist that any moderation of anyone is somehow an affront to their rights, and doubly so when it’s a government official.
But, sorry, no one has a right to demand a private company host their speech.
Apparently, part of the process of blocking Twitter in the country involved requiring every social company to get a license from the country’s broadcast regulator:
The government gave no details on how the ban would work in practice, or any explanation of how Twitter had undermined Nigeria’s corporate existence.
Its statement, which was released on Twitter, also revealed that the national broadcasting regulator, NBC, has been told to start “the process of licensing all OTT [internet streaming services] and social media operations in Nigeria”.
That certainly sounds like a prelude to an even harsher crackdown on social media in the country, which has been one of a few growing tech hubs in Africa.
Separately, though, various telcos have been told to block Twitter, but apparently people are still getting around the block, leading the Nigerian government, in a moment of true patheticness, to insist that it will prosecute anyone who gets around the ban. That doesn’t seem at all desperate.
It’s also interesting, given that in 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey talked about the importance of Africa, and even announced plans to live there for an extended period of time in 2020 (a plan that was put on hold because of the pandemic). Of course, a couple months ago, Twitter announced that it’s African offices would be based in Ghana, and not Nigeria. So you have to wonder if that also played a role in Nigeria’s sudden hostility to the company. Though, of course, the reasons Twitter mentioned for why it chose Ghana maybe should have caused the Nigerian government to pause before rushing in to silence the entire website:
As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana?s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa.
Still, this is what actual censorship is. A government stepping in and blocking speech in retaliation for other speech. Not that the US is any better, of course. It was less than a year ago that President Trump tried to do the same thing with TikTok and WeChat.