Twitter in Nigeria Suspended ‘Unconsciously’

The Nigerian government said on Friday it was suspending Twitter permanently, two days after the social media giant deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules.

Twitter was still active in Africa’s most populous country immediately after Friday’s statement, which sparked immediate criticism from human rights groups and analysts for freedom of speech.

The Nigerian Information Department said Twitter had been “suspended,” due to “repeated use of the platform in activities that could undermine Nigeria’s performance in companies”.

Asked about the decision, Department of Special Assistant Assistant Segun Adeyemi told AFP: “I cannot respond to technology … jobs will be suspended.”

The department also announced his suspension on his Twitter account although he did not provide details on when the decision would take effect or how it would be suspended.

“The announcement by the Nigerian Government to suspend the operation of Twitter in Nigeria is deeply affecting,” the company said in a statement.

“We are investigating and will provide updates as soon as we know more.”

The department did not provide details of what threatened Nigeria.

But Twitter on Wednesday withdrew comments from Buhari’s account for breaking the rules, after he spoke about the country’s civil war in a warning about the recent unrest in the southeast.

The 78-year-old president, who was former chief of staff, referred to those “misbehaviors” in the recent violence in the southeastern state, where officials blamed separatists for the attacks on police and election offices.

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Information Minister Lai Mohammed on Wednesday accused Twitter of ignoring the violent messages from the divorced leader and pointed to support for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in support of last year’s # EndSARS protests in Nigeria against police brutality.

Friday’s decision was quickly criticized by rights groups.

“This act of suppression is a clear attempt to eliminate dissent by blocking public space,” Human Rights Warch researcher Anietie Ewang tweeted.

‘Confusing freedom of speech’
Amnesty International has called on Nigeria to immediately postpone the “illegal suspension”.

“This is a rising tide of freedom of speech that is only possible in dictatorial regimes,” said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Twitter.

“It will go down in history as Buhari’s major mistakes and PR tragedies.”

Nigeria in 2019 had announced that it would tighten rules on social media to combat non-disinformation issues, but the proposal has raised concerns about freedom of speech.

Several countries including China and Turkey are accused of imposing restrictions on social media platforms such as Twitter.

In February Twitter condemned Myanmar’s move to block access to its platform as part of a campaign against social media, just days after protests against Aung San Suu Kyi and other military leaders.

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