Internet Sans Frontieres strongly condemns the decision of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to “indefinitely” suspend access to social platform Twitter, and denounces a serious, disproportionate, illegal and unnecessary violation of the human rights of Nigerian users. The retaliatory measure came into effect on June 4, 2021, after Twitter deleted a post by President Muhammadu Buhari for violating the Californian company’s content policies.
The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture tweeted to the 40 million Nigerian users the decision to block access to the social network. Reactions from Nigerian and international civil society organizations, as well as foreign representations in Nigeria, were quick to surface on the hashtag #TwitterBanNigeria.
A disturbing culmination
This is not the first time that Twitter has removed publications from a government or one of its representatives; but the reaction of the Nigerian authorities is cause for concern. The Government has been seeking by any means to control free speech on social media: two bills to combat fake news and hate speech were presented in 2019 to the parliament, even though President Buhari has yet to promulgate the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, which would guarantee the fundamental rights of citizens on the Internet. With the blocking of Twitter, and proposed registration requirements for social media companies, the Government has taken a step further.
“The repercussions of this censorship in Nigeria and in Africa are worrying. If Africa’s largest economy can do this, then other governments will feel empowered to do the same. The Buhari Government must set an example for democracy and the economy of Nigeria, and of the continent, ”said Julie Owono, Executive Director of Internet Without Borders.
A significant economic risk
“Investor confidence will be hugely affected, especially for a sector that helped Nigeria recover from a recession. Businesses in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands and communicate with various stakeholders, all this will definitely be affected by this erratic restriction,”said Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative.
According to estimates, blocking Twitter has already cost the Nigerian economy nearly $ 7 million.
Internet Sans Frontieres calls on the Nigerian authorities to end a counterproductive measure.
Internet Sans Frontieres also invites the Federal Government of Nigeria, as well as representatives of Twitter, other digital companies, and Nigerian and international civil society to a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the moderation of content on social media platforms.