On the Friday 4th, 2021, the Federal government with the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture put out a memo that directed telecom companies and ISPs to block access to the website and mobile app, Twitter. This caused a huge furor not just nationally but also internationally. The ambassadors of US, UK, and Canada were called up and the whole nation was stirred up by the move. The move was in response to the tweet of the President Buhari being taken down because of its incitive tone and message. While, I think the tweet was repugnant and abhorrent. I fully support the ban of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria.
This is an example of where corporate entities especially big tech companies insert themselves in the affairs and the governance of a sovereign nation. It is a very serious situation when a private company interferes with the communication of a nation state. This is something that would not be a very good decision and would probably affect the operations of social media giants in future.
Nigeria is not the first country to ban or limit Twitter. Several countries such as Tanzania in Africa have done the same thing. My main problem is that Twitter should not be interfering with the communication of the Head of State in Nigeria. The President is the head of security of Nigeria and is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. So, Twitter controlling and censoring his speech is not something that should be accepted by any government. I can fully condemn and repudiate the tweet made by President Buhari. But a foreign company meddling directly in the affairs of our country should give one pause. This brazen move by the corporation that does not pay taxes to Nigeria is something I think is an overreach. The actions of this American company should not be taken lightly at all.
The main pretext is that Twitter has its T&Cs so anyone that violates it would see judgement as Twitter deems fit is laughable. There are innumerable instances of how Twitter uses double standards when it comes to communications and messages sent out by people. It’s safe to say that Twitter leans heavily left and aligns with the politically liberal. So, when there are riots, Twitter would support and promote them as “peaceful protests.” However, there is some about-face on Twitter’s part as when there are some demonstrations in Nigeria, Twitter tends to suppress the chatter and make sure the trends are not dominating the website. To be clear, Twitter tries to be politically expedient to certain factions in society at large. However, to state that they are standing by their T & Cs is a very lame defense of their actions towards the Nigerian Government.
I really think businesses should not be in control of public discourse. The business model of Twitter and other social media platforms involves aggregation. Aggregation is where they can get many users on a platform. The number gives the platform standing and the network effect increases the value of the platform exponentially. To protect such platforms and their aggregation of comments and interactions, there is legislation called Section 230 that identifies and protects these platforms from litigation since they are not publishers. They do not take responsibility on what is published on their platform. However, big tech platforms for years have expanded their hold on public discourse by suppressing and censoring people and information. This goes beyond even the business practices allowed in America.
Many people bring up that the President of America, Donald J. Trump was banned not only from Twitter but also other social media platforms. This brings me back to the other points of Twitter’s political bias and its adherence to its own T & Cs. Even during the Senate trial, the exact reading of Trump’s statement shown proved no incitement of violence or any ominous threat. But since there is a concerted effort to censor not only Trump but millions of his supporters, this was made to go through. Trump probably handled the social media giants very badly from the start. Refusing to assess the expanding power and desire to censor Americans and control the messaging of American discourse but that was a grave mistake that hurts not only him for the entire America “Overton window.” Now not only is information suppressed, but also people really are believing in propaganda since the sources of media are controlled are biased towards a certain ideology.
A very curious example of Twitter’s bias. Is Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School. His class went on a field trip and they wore “MAGA” caps. There was a situation where a man walked up to them and started drumming in their faces. It was interpreted all over Twitter as the 15-year-old, at the time, being racist and disrespectful to an elderly Native American veteran. All over Twitter was hateful comments and threat towards the Nick Sandmann, the students, the school, and his family. Nick Sandmann and his family sued the offenders and the media that published the false stories in court. The courts easily found evidence, just like any resourceful person could, about the incident. The media houses such as CNN has to settle in court. But, many of the people that made threatening comments including then death threats still had their tweets on the site and no sanctions were made against them. Twitter did nothing despite its own T & Cs.
I think that there is an opportunity for the government to not only bring the social media giant in line but it can also start reviewing how it contributed to the country in the way of taxes and other means. Since, they may not be interested in building facilities in Nigeria, maybe them paying taxes would be something that would add to our economy. Many businesses used Twitter for their advertisements and Nigeria is still has a large population what would make a huge difference in any business environment. I think the Federal Government should have stiff sanctions with the social media giant but still leave roam for indulgences.