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Nigeria’s Twitter ban is a new low

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Nigeria’s Twitter ban is a new low
By get.Africa Weekly • Issue #72 • View online
Utụtụ ọma,
That’s “good morning” in Igbo
During Nigeria’s civil war (1967-1970), the Igbos suffered the heaviest casualties. According to some estimates, more than 2 million of them lost their lives.
The civil war remains an unhealed wound in Nigerian history, to this day, some scholars still clamour for what happened to the Igbos to be classified as genocide.
In recent months, there has been civil unrest in Igbo land that has been blamed on regional separatists. This prompted President Muhammed Buhari to give a speech where he referenced the war and threatened to deal with them in:
“a language they’ll understand”.
The speech was transcribed and posted on Pres. Buhari’s Twitter handle. But Twitter took it down, stating that it was: 
“in violation of the Twitter Rules".
This infuriated government officials and on Friday, the country’s minister of information announced the restriction of Twitter access throughout the country, ironically, via a tweet.
It’s been coming
Pres. Buhari’s message was also posted on his Facebook account, but Facebook didn’t suffer the same fate as Twitter.
It is, however, important to note that the statement mentioned that all social media sites and over-the-top (OTT) platforms will soon be regulated.
There’s a plausible explanation for Twitter being singled out first, Dorsey’s support of the #EndSARS protests and Nigeria’s minister of information having to field uncomfortable questions about why Twitter chose Accra over Lagos for its new offices probably meant that this was Twitter’s third strike.
But zooming out, Nigeria’s president vs. Twitter is the intersection of three trendlines:
  1. Local touchpoints: I’ve written about how Twitter’s new Accra office is more about timeline curation and content moderation than anything else. Shortly after taking down Buhari’s tweet, Twitter also deleted a tweet from a popular Igbo separatist leader, thus, indicating some level of understanding of the local context. On its end, Facebook is set to open an office in Lagos later this year.
  2. Self-regulation: Twitter and Facebook both suspended Pres. Donald Trump in January, indicating that no one was above their policies, not even sitting presidents.
  3. Government regulation: Politicians around the world took note. However, in Nigeria where a deeply unpopular social media bill had hit a brick wall and the country’s information minister was constantly lamenting about how social media was “destroying” the country, they weren’t just taking notes, they were getting ready to take action.
How low can you go?
Governments shutting down access to social media sites isn’t uncommon in Africa. This year alone, there have been reports of disruptions in DRC, Senegal, Chad and Uganda.
And do you know the reason that’s given for almost all of these disruptions? Political unrest and democratic stability.
I’ve written about how social media companies citing similar reasons in banning Trump had handed some African politicians the perfect alibi.
However, what makes Nigeria’s Twitter suspension remarkable is that it is purely punitive, there is no veneer of protecting stability. It’s just a straight tit-for-tat, or gbas-gbos as we say in Nigeria.
This gives us the first indication of how some of the continent’s political leaders could react if what happened to Pres. Buhari’s social media account happens to theirs.

get.Africa is a weekly roundup of the most important stories in African tech. To support, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, share this issue or send us an email. You can also check our archives.
Credit: Waldemar Brandt
Credit: Waldemar Brandt
What's the Big Deal?
+ GH₵: Ghanaian fintech startup, appsNmobile has closed a $1 million investment from the Oasis Capital VC fund to scale its e-payments service for businesses in Ghana.
+KSh Kibanda TopUp, a Kenyan startup that aims at digitising the food supply chain for micro, small, and medium restaurants in Africa has closed a $460k pre-seed round to increase its customer base. The round was led by the US-based JAM Fund.
E£: Almentor, a video-based online learning platform for the Middle East and North Africa, has raised $6.5m in a Series B round led by Partech from its Africa Fund.
+ ZAR: Prosus, a global consumer internet group and a subsidiary of Naspers, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Stack Overflow. The agreement is worth approximately US$1.8 billion. Stack Overflow is a leading knowledge-sharing platform for the global community of developers and technologists.
Reads
Netflix to slash its library in South Africa to meet local content quotas
Digital lenders in Kenya are blatantly abusing data protection laws
Three types of WhatsApp messages can now land you in jail in South Africa
Nigerian startup funding beyond fintech
Kenya’s first smart city promised everything. 13 years on, it’s still a construction site
Charts + Graphs
Credit: Africarena
Credit: Africarena
Comparing the startup ecosystem in the big 4 countries, from payments unicorns in Nigeria to Egypt’s dynamic local investors. And from expat-friendly Kenya to the academia-backed SA. Full report.
+ Reads
+ More to come: Nigeria’s presidency reportedly meets with China’s cyber regulator to build a Nigerian internet firewall.
+ Speed bump: A new report found that internet users in Johannesburg and Pretoria experienced the highest speeds. Not this week though, a massive undersea mudslide caused disruptions to internet service in some parts of South Africa.
+ Go Gokada Go! Nigeria-based on-demand delivery service Gokada launches super app as it crosses US$100 million in annualized transaction value.
+ Opinion: The key to unlocking Africa’s informal markets? Open Banking
+ The future of work: South African tech companies are unlikely to see a full return to a structured office environment any time soon — if ever.
Watch + Listen
How Bitcoin Made #EndSARS Protests Censorship-Resistant
How Bitcoin Made #EndSARS Protests Censorship-Resistant
Paga - How one of Nigeria’s earliest FinTech companies is providing financial services in emerging markets
A rise in big tech censorship hits Africa's most popular pastor, TB Joshua
Interview - Nadayar Enegesi co-founder, Andela and founder, Eden Life
What have founders learned from Africa's early internet startups? feat. Derin Adebayo
Overheard on Twitter
moe
Why didn’t the Telcos stand together and ask the Federal government to get a court order? There’s no way all their licenses would have been revoked. Based on this, they are complicit. They all fell with no resistance whatsoever. #KeepitOn
Classifieds
I'm writing a book on remote work for African businesses
I'm writing a book on remote work for African businesses
+ To make whiteboard animation videos like this for educational or marketing purposes, please send us an email.
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