Nigeria lifts Twitter ban after 7 months

Abuja, Nigeria – The Nigerian government has lifted its ban on Twitter, seven months after it banned more than 200 million people in the West African country from the social network.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the possibility of resuming Twitter operations on Thursday, according to the director general of the country’s National Information Technology Development Agency. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi said it only happened after Twitter agreed to meet some conditions, including opening an office in Nigeria.

Nigeria suspended Twitter’s operation on June 4, citing the “continued use of the platform for activities that could undermine the presence of businesses in Nigeria.” The measure drew criticism because it came shortly after the social network deleted a Buhari post in which he threatened to treat separatists “in the language they would understand”.

In a statement, Abdullah said this week’s action was a “deliberate attempt to reset our relationship with Twitter to maximize the mutual benefits of our nation without jeopardizing the company’s justifiable interests. Our engagement has been highly respectful, friendly and successful.” .

A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to registering in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022, Abdullah said Twitter had also agreed to other terms including appointing a designated country representative, complying with tax obligations and acting “with respect to Nigerian laws and national culture and history.” on which such legislation was built.”

Idyat Hassan, who leads the center focused on West Africa, said lifting the ban, while a good thing, offers little hope because “whether the government likes it or not, the only thing they’ve really done is they’ve gagged their mouths.” Nigerians. For democracy and development.

“They violated the right to receive and influence information,” Hassan said, adding that the Nigerian government should instead prioritize “openness and effective information flow.”

There are no official estimates of the economic cost of shutting down Twitter in Africa’s most populous country since June 4 when it was announced, but NetBlocks, which estimates the cost of shutting down the internet worldwide, said Nigeria could lose 103.1 million naira (US$251,000). ) in every hour of the siege.

During the lockdown, many young people were finding a way around the ban by turning to virtual private network (VPN) apps, but corporate services – some of which depend on the Nigerian economy – remained shuttered.

The authorities also prepared to regulate other social networks in the West African country. In August 2021, Information Minister Lai Muhammad told the state news agency, “We will not rest until we organize social media, otherwise no one will survive it.”

But the government’s claim that it should regulate social media networks to combat fake news has been repeatedly challenged by many activists. While it is true that “the weaponization of information to spread fake news in Nigeria is very high,” the focus on countering fake news online is actually a defeat of purpose because it is both online and offline in Nigeria, said Hassan, Director of the Community Development Center.

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