Nigerian Twitter ban is over – or is it?

Nigerian Twitter ban is over – or is it?

Late last week President Muhammadu Buhari told Nigerians, in an Independence Day broadcast, that after a government team had had "extensive engagements" with Twitter, the ban on Twitter's operations in Nigeria was to be lifted. But there are strings attached.

The story so far is that Twitter deleted a post by President Buhari which contained what could have been interpreted as a threat to separatists. Shortly afterwards, on 4 June, Nigeria suspended the social media giant’s operation, citing "the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence".

Nigerian officials have apparently denied that the post and the shutdown are connected.

Both free speech campaigners and businesses of various sizes were unhappy with the ban. Many businesses have obeyed the directive and, it is believed, have lost revenue as a consequence. Global internet monitor NetBlocks has suggested that the country could be losing over $250,000 an hour while Twitter is suspended.

That said, according to an AP news report, many Nigerians have chosen to get round the ban by using virtual private network (VPN) apps.

The government has now sounded a conciliatory note. However, AP points out that conditions for restoring Twitter include that it registers and pays tax in Nigeria and that there is local content on the social network. There is also a reference to “national security”.

It’s not clear what that means or how Twitter is meant to respond to government insistence that the country remains committed to “ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria's sovereignty [and] cultural values and promote online safety”.

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