The Federal government of Nigeria announced on Twitter that it “had” suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria citing “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as its reason.
While many Twitter users have faulted the government for announcing the ban on same platform, others have raised concerns on what the ban really means, when it would commence among others.
Let’s try to answer a few questions while we all grapple with this news
When does the ban commence?
Most likely immediately, because according to Mr Lai Mohammed (Minister of information and culture), the government has asked the NBC to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.
What does OTT mean in the statement and should I be worried?
OTT is an acronym for Over the top; it is a collective word for non-traditional media platforms like social and digital media. Basically “internet” media like Netflix, Youtube, WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. As long as it is not on TV, radio, newspaper and billboards, it is OTT and as you know, traditional media have active regulators from NBC to APCON, etc.
Licensing OTT/Social media operations in the minister’s statement means there may be an active body acting as regulator moving forward who determine what kind of internet services we use. Operative word, may.
This ban, how will it happen? Will my Twitter just not work again?
So, the government unfortunately did not give details as to how the ban will be implemented, but here are a few possibilities. Yes, Twitter may not refresh again. Twitter may also not be available for download on your “Nigerian google play store” if the government goes that far in regulating social media operations. Just like apps like Spotify were not available in Nigeria until recently and videos on Youtube sometimes say, “this video is not available in your region.” Yeah.
Also, Telcos (MTN, Airtel, Glo, etc) may be mandated to stop selling data or like it was reported during the #EndSARS protests, the app will not launch if the telco “blocks” your access to it from their end – an extreme process/claim, but a possibility nonetheless.
Can the government actually do this?
Short answer, yes. Largely because Twitter is a business and in foreign policy, if a country does not want a business “investing” in their space, they reserve the right to refuse them access or restrict access to their products.
Lol. Does Twitter know they have been “banned” in Nigeria?
Well, they must have seen the tweet the way we all saw it. There is no communication from the government that a formal complaint was lodged to Jack Dorsey or the Twitter team.
Where else is this happening please?
According to the BBC, Ethiopia imposed an internet shutdown which lasted for close to a month after unrest which followed the killing of a prominent singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa. Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali and Guinea also restricted access to the internet or social media applications at some point in 2020.
So, what do I do?
Well, signing up on a virtual private network (VPN) is the most basic thing to do for starters. This will change your location from Nigeria to countries like UK, US, Ireland, etc (basically countries where Twitter is accessible). Just search VPN on your App Store and choose carefully.
Also, if you use WiFi, you may have some respite. Though we don’t know how long that would last. Because WiFi internet service providers do not do retail like telcos, should Twitter be blocked in Nigeria, you will still be able to access it because you are not using mobile data.