DAKAR, Senegal. Nigeria’s government restored Twitter access to the country on Thursday after a seven-month suspension that was imposed after the social networking site removed the post of Nigeria’s president, which threatened to brutally crack down on secessionist groups.
The government blocked access to the site in June but changed course on Wednesday after Twitter agreed to several demands. Twitter will set up an office in the country, pay taxes there, appoint a representative and “act with respect for Nigerian law, national culture and history,” a government official said.
Since the ban went into effect, Nigerians have only been able to access the service through a virtual private network. The removal of the post of President Muhammadu Bukhari on Twitter reputedly prompted the government to block the site, but government official Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi said on Wednesday that it was because it was being used “for subversion and criminal activity.” “
In an already deleted tweet addressed to “those who misbehave,” Mr. Bukhari said the government would “treat them in a language they understand.” . Some interpreted this as a threat of genocide.
In recent years, Nigerian lawmakers have presented several bills that, if passed, would regulate social media on the basis of security or national cohesion concerns. Human rights groups say these measures, none of which have been approved, may violate international laws protecting free speech.
Amnesty International human rights group said Wednesday night that the Twitter ban was “illegal” and called it an attack on basic freedoms of Nigerians, including freedom of expression.
Several organizations have filed lawsuits against the government over the ban and the telecom companies that applied it.
V tweetTwitter said it was “glad” that its service has been restored.
“Our mission in Nigeria and around the world is to serve the community,” the message says. “We are deeply committed to Nigeria, where Twitter is used by people for commerce, cultural interaction and civic engagement.”
Twitter is far from the most popular social network in Nigeria – it is believed to have around three million users and is behind WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.
However, it has significant influence in a country where it is often used by the elite, and in 2020 it was used to organize the largest anti-government uprising in a generation, waged by youth against police brutality.
The ban could have cost the Nigerian economy more than $ 1.4 billion, according to a tool developed by monitoring organization NetBlocks to calculate the economic impact of Internet outages, mobile data outages or app restrictions. Many Nigerians who have used Twitter to promote their businesses have lost income.
In addition to the economic implications, there were also serious social implications, says Yemi Adamolekun, executive director of Enough is Enough Nigeria, an organization dedicated to good governance and public accountability.
The Nigerian Center for Disease Control used Twitter to spread information about the spread of the coronavirus, she said. This was the source Nigerians turned to for information on reported cases, deaths and tests. During the ban, the organization Twitter account was inactive. His last tweet was a breakdown of cases by state, dated June 4.
The organization disseminated information through Facebook, but many Nigerians were unaware of this even when the Delta variant was circulated.
“A lot of people didn’t fully feel the impact of the Delta option,” Ms Adamolecun said, “because they weren’t getting the updates.”