In a controversial move, the Nigeria government on Friday announced it has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of Twitter in the country.
The federal government based its decision on the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
This decision came two days after Twitter deleted a controversial post by President Muhammadu Buhari referencing the country’s civil war, and threatening those who attack government buildings “with the language they understand”.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Mr Buhari warned in the tweet that was taken down.
Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed was dismissive of Twitter’s action, saying Mr Buhari had the right to express dismay at violence by a banned organisation.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule,” he said. “If Mr president anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views.”
Authorities did not clarify how and when the ban would start but the announcement has already sparked a torrent of outrage, with many people saying it is a move by the government to clamp down on freedom of expression.
Twitter said in a statement on Friday that it was investigating the “deeply concerning” suspension of operations, and would “provide updates when we know more”.
There are at least eight other countries where repressive governments have imposed a ban on Twitter.
As of 2019, the governments of China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Turkmenistan amongst others had either temporarily or permanently blocked access to Twitter in their domains.
Turkey blocked access to Twitter in March 2014 in the run-up to local elections. The move was reportedly carried out to stem a stream of leaked wiretapped recordings of senior officials that had appeared on the site, prompting then Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to say he would “root out” the network.
Turkey lifted the ban on Twitter after the social networking site complied with its request to remove photographs of a slain Istanbul prosecutor.
The decision caused a public uproar and drew heavy international criticism.
Twitter said the government of Turkey since 2017 accounted for more than 52 per cent of all content removal requests worldwide.
In 2009, China blocked Twitter temporarily. The move was imposed after a “small group of China’s Muslim ethnic minority used the site to exchange information which resulted in deadly riots in Xinjiang.”
After the ban, many Chinese opted to use Twitter via VPN. Twitter was officially blocked alongside Facebook, Google+ and Foursquare.
Egyptians had no access to Twitter on January 25, 2011 during the 2011 Egyptian protests. On January 27, various reports claimed that access to the entire Internet from within Egypt had been shut down. However, on February 2, 2011, connectivity was re-established by the four main Egyptian service providers.
In 2016, Egypt cut off internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook as the government tried to prevent social media from being used to foment unrest.
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Twitter, YouTube, Hotmail, Google, Chinese search engine Baidu and a “proxy service” – which would allow users to evade the restrictions – appeared to be blocked from inside the country, according to the UK guardian.
Twitter was blocked in Iran in 2009 after a contentious presidential election. During the period, only Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was not prevented from owning a Twitter account.
About two million Iranians access Twitter using VPNs, and Twitter was integral in galvanizing support for Iran’s 2010 Green Revolution.
North Korea officially announced it was blocking Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and South Korean websites in a bid to further control access to outside information in 2013.
The government announced it was blocking the aforesaid platforms “for a certain period of time.” It also said gambling and “sex and adult websites” had been blocked. In 2010 the government surprised the world by reportedly starting its own Twitter account. South Korea, in response, blocked the account from its own borders.
Accessing Twitter without the government’s permission is a punishable offence. This applies to both citizens and foreigners.
In 2013, the Saudi Arabian government blocked Twitter when it conducted an “experiment “. The app was an important tool for criticising the government. It also censors individual social media pages, blocks accounts of political activists, and curbs freedom of expression by using tweets as grounds for charges like defamation and blasphemy.
Foreign news and opposition websites have been blocked in Turkmenistan since 2018. Social networks like Twitter are usually described as “often inaccessible”.
In 2007, the UAE blocked Twitter, meaning anyone in the UAE who went to the site was welcomed with the following message:
“We apologize, the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.” But Twitter has since been available in the country.
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