FGN lifts Twitter ban and so what?
So for 222 days Nigerians have been restricted from using the social media platform, Twitter. The federal government ordered all Telcos and ISPs to restrict access to the platform. However, some Nigerians used VPN to access the platform. In the early hours of 13th day of January, 2022 the ban was lifted
We can all argue on the propriety of the action of Twitter that led to the ban and whether the company acted appropriately and not in sentiment and, as some have argued, in neocolonialism. I bet to disagree with the latter. The company did same with the likes of D. J. Trump. For sentiment, we can say Twitter failed at this.
Now, the ban was lifted after seven months by the federal government who claimed Twitter has agreed to their terms. The following terms has been agreed to:
1. Twitter will register in Nigeria
2. Appoint a designated country representative
3. Comply with tax obligations in Nigeria
4. Enrol Nigeria in its portal for direct communications between government officials and Twitter to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules
5. Act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws
As harmless to the citizens as these Terms may look, it is important to note that item 4 can mean something huge in terms of internet censorship and the concept of freedom of speech. Some have interpreted it to mean that Nigerian government will have access to delete tweets that does not please them or meet their sentimental leanings just as Twitter deleted the President’s tweet. Others opined that it is just a strict regulation and it is to make Twitter regulate content on the platform.
Whatever position you take, it is important to note that moving forward the Twitter space and other social media platforms will be well scrutinized and monitored ( I think we should call it a secretive censorship). It therefore means that it is no longer a safe space for banter like you think it was. It means a lot. It means democracy does not mean freedom of speech.
On whether it is important for Twitter to be registered in Nigeria to be taxed, we know that such is not necessary, if the framework for taxation of non resident companies is put in place. It follows that the Nigerian government calling for the registration wants Twitter to be a puppet to control what the citizens do just as it is barking at the Telcos and ISPs to censor the internet space. Still point to the main point, more control means more internet censorship.
My one naira advice, Twitter space is not a safe space. No social media platform is a safe space. Watch what you tweet, share or post. Nigeria is going in the way of China, if we are not already there. The Twitter ban is a sign that full internet censorship can happen in Nigeria. We can laugh at it and say it will never come. It is the same we had the Twitter ban. It is just sad that whilst countries are researching on tech solutions for different sectors including Agriculture ( which we loud and do nothing to improve mechanisation and tech innovation in the sector). I cannot emphasize this enough: You may still consider using VPN because Big Brother is watching you!
A Personal Opinion from Adeyemi O. Owoade