On Friday, Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information, announced an “indefinite” suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.
According to a statement issued by Segun Adeyemi, his spokesman, Lai cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
“The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria,” Adeyemi added.
Chances are high that this was an emotional reaction to Twitter’s removal of a divisive tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari’s handle. But what if the ban were to be implemented?
- This means young Nigerians will have to find an alternative to speak out against bad governance. Organisations like ‘Enough is Enough’ and ‘Tracka’, which monitor and hold politicians accountable via their hugely-followed Twitter platforms, will be affected.
- Criminal activities have been boosted. More kidnap stories will escape our notice. The story of Iniubong Umoren would never have come to light if not for Twitter. Twitter has served as a platform for social justice and unveiling evil. Well, the government may just have handed evil an advantage over good!
- Social media aides to politicans would lose their relevance. Presidential aides, governors and lawmakers use Twitter more than any other platform to pass information. Yes, there are other patforms. But Twitter is the most used by all of them. A ban on Twitter means they get to lose their jobs, really?
- Internet service providers such as MTN, Glo, 9Mobile will be used to block access to Twitter and Nigerians will have to make use of VPNs to bypass the restriction. This however brings into question the new laws the government would use to furhter restrict freedom of speech.
- This ban will affect the operations of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and streaming platforms which will be licensed under government restrictions. When the government seeks to control information flow, this also affects the entertainment sector.
- Small and medium businesses that depend on Twitter to market their products will be greatly affected. The Nigerian government always prides itself in supporting SMEs, but this is a retrogression and would further affect the economy.
- Newspaper readership figures will drop. No need to explain, aren’t you reading this piece because you clicked on a link you saw on Twitter? Maybe you didn’t; your ‘neighbour’ surely did.
- You remember #EndSARS? Of course, Twitter wasn’t the medium through which DJ Switch live-streamed the killing of protesters by Nigerian soldiers; it was Instagram. But anyone who followed events before October 20 understands that Twitter was the ultimate galvanizing social media platform for the protesters. If Twitter gets taken away from us, well, we may never see anything like #EndSARS again regardless of the pains of the people.
I know these thoughts aren’t exhaustive. Feel free to add yours.
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