This past Friday, the Nigerian government officially banned Twitter’s operations within the country. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the announcement in Abuja. The move comes after President Muhammadu Buhari‘s tweet was found to have violated Twitter’s community standards and subsequently deleted. President Buhari’s tweet was reportedly “[threatening] to punish regional secessionists” just two days prior to the ban.
As with many African who are often subjected to intermittent internet shutdowns and social media bans, Nigerians have found a way around the Twitter ban. Using virtual private networks (VPNs) and the more costly fixed broadband, Nigerians in the country have continued to tweet under the online banner of #KeepItOn while also sharing events happening within the country that are seemingly being suppressed during this time. This however, may come at a major personal cost.
Twitter isn’t just an APP!! Twitter is our emergency help line.. Many Nigerians can testify to that! #KeepitOn
— TACHA🔱🇳🇬🇬🇭 (@Symply_Tacha)
It took 2 hour for the Federal Government to call a press conference in response to the deletion of Buhari’s Tweet… https://t.co/bW37u7ApDp
— Reno Omokri (@renoomokri)
Al Jazeera reports that Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, has ordered that those found circumventing the Twitter ban be prosecuted immediately. Details around the prosecution in terms of possible fines or time behind bars, have not been shared as yet.
The Nigerian government has, however, denied that the ban is a result of the President’s tweet having been deleted. According to the BBC, they have cited fake news and misinformation as the main cause for the ban saying, “There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences.”