Nigeria has indefinitely blocked access to Twitter two days after the social media site removed tweets from the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened regional secessionists.
The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced the ban on Friday (4th June). The statement was somewhat ironically made via a series of tweets. On Saturday, Reuters reported that while Twitter was inaccessible from certain carriers, it was viewable via others in both Lagos and Abuja.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the ban was necessary as Twitter was “persistent[ly] use[d]…for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence". The ministry did not issue further details, but Reuters quoted a ministerial aide as saying “wait and see how things will turn out.”
Twitter described the government ban as “deeply concerning”, adding that it had removed Buhari’s tweets – which threatened punishment against groups blamed for attacks for government buildings – as they violated its abusive behaviour policy.
The social media firm added that it would seek to restore its service in Nigeria, stating that a free and open internet was now “an essential human right in modern society.”
In April this year, Twitter selected Ghana as the site for its first African office, angering Nigeria’s information minister. Mohammed claimed at the time that the firm had shunned Nigeria due to misinformation, including claims that the country’s police had brutally cracked down on protests last year.
The protests called for police reform, and received the support of Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey who called for his followers to provide donations. Many Nigerians used social media to share what they claimed was proof of police harassment, prompting Mohammed to propose “some form of regulation” on social media to prevent the spread of “fake news.”