The announcement comes two days after the social media giant deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account.
Nigeria has said it is indefinitely suspending Twitter operations in the country, two days after the social media network deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists for attacks on government buildings.
Twitter was still operating in Africa’s most populous country shortly after Friday’s surprise announcement by the government, which did not give a timeframe for the start of the suspension.
The news, announced by the Ministry of Information on Twitter itself, sparked outrage among social media users in Nigeria, where Twitter is hugely popular.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the government acted because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that could undermine the existence of Nigerian businesses”.
Mohammed did not elaborate or provide details on what form the suspension would take.
“The Nigerian government’s announcement of the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning,” the company said in a statement.
“We are investigating and will provide updates when we know more.”
— Fed Min of Info & Cu (@FMICNigeria) June 4, 2021
On Wednesday, the US tech giant said Buhari’s post threatening to punish groups accused of attacks on government buildings violated Twitter’s “abusive behavior” policy and suspended his account for 12 hours.
“Many of those who misbehave today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of life that occurred during the Nigerian civil war,” Buhari wrote, referring to the 1967-70 conflict. “Those of us who have been in the fields for 30 months, who have been through the war, will deal with them in the language they understand.”
In April, Lai reacted angrily when Twitter chose neighboring Ghana for its first African bureau. He said the society had been influenced by false media reports about Nigeria, including reports of the crackdown on protests against police brutality last year.
Protesters mobilizing under the hashtag #ENDSARS had used social media to organise, fundraise and share alleged evidence of police harassment.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted at the time to encourage his followers to donate.
In the wake of the protests, Mohammed called for “some form of regulation” on social media to tackle “fake news”.
“Attempt to censor dissent”
Friday’s decision was quickly denounced by social media user rights groups.
“This repressive action is a clear attempt to censor dissent and stifle civic space,” Human Rights Warch researcher Anietie Ewang said on Twitter.
The Nigerian branch of Amnesty International also condemned the decision and called on the authorities to “immediately reverse the illegal suspension and other plans aimed at gagging the media, suppressing civic space and undermining the human rights of Nigerians”. .
Commenting on the announced suspension, Jim Anderson, managing director of SocialFlow, an international content and software developer, told Al Jazeera: “There is a very pragmatic challenge, which is how to apply a ban once.
“I suspect what Nigeria is trying to do is block IP addresses associated with Twitter, an infrastructure level block. It’s a difficult thing to do,” he said, citing the example of China.
“China has blocked Twitter, but you can see tens of millions of people accessing Twitter through other means. The Great Firewall is not always a very effective firewall, certainly not for China and I suspect it is not the case for Nigeria either.