Nigeria Lifts Twitter Ban After Seven Months of Censorship

Nigeria Lifts Twitter Ban After Seven Months of Censorship
A man carries a banner calling for the end to the Twitter ban during a demonstration at Ojota in Lagos, Nigeria on June 12, 2021. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekepei / AFP, Getty Images)

Nigeria will lift a ban on Twitter on Thursday after seven months, according to a statement published online from the country’s technology development agency. The government banned Twitter for enabling “subversive” and “criminal” activities, though in reality it was likely because the social media company deleted a post from the president of Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was a military dictator in the 1980s but most recently took power in 2015, banned Twitter on June 4, 2021, shortly after the social media company deleted one of his posts.

“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari tweeted at the time, referring to the deaths of rebels in the 1980s.

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the head of Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency, released a statement on Wednesday announcing that Twitter had made enough concessions for the ban to be lifted at midnight, including a promise to establish an office in Nigeria.

“The immediate and remote cause of the suspension was the unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others,” Abdullahi said in a statement published online.

“These issues bordering on National Security, Cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the [Federal Government of Nigeria] to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria,” Abdullahi continued.

“The new global reality is that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of our society, social interaction and economic choices,” Abdullahi said.

The Nigerian government has struggled with issues around freedom of speech, especially online. Back in October of 2020, the Nigerian people rose up to demand an end to police brutality. The campaign’s Twitter hashtag was #EndSARS, in reference to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a division of the country’s national police force that participated in horrendous abuses of average citizens.

The official Nigerian government statement published on Wednesday laid out the myriad concessions Twitter will make to continue operations in Nigeria:

  1. Twitter has committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The establishment of the entity is Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.
  2. Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities. The Global Public Policy team is also directly available through a dedicated communication channel.
  3. Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.
  4. Twitter has agreed to enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. The Partner Support Portal provides a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules. At the same time, the Law Enforcement Portal provides a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian Laws. Taken together, these represent a comprehensive compliance apparatus.
  5. Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and work with the FGN and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries.

“We are pleased that Twitter has been restored for everyone in Nigeria. Our mission in Nigeria — and everywhere in the world — is to serve the public conversation,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo via email early Thursday.

“We are deeply committed to Nigeria, where Twitter is used by people for commerce, cultural engagement, and civic participation,” the spokesperson continued.