The Nigerian government said it banned Twitter “indefinitely” after the platform removed a tweet from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday for violating his abusive code of conduct.
Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the suspension was due to “continued use of the platform for activities that may undermine Nigeria’s very existence”.
He also said the federal government has ordered the National Broadcasting Commission, which regulates the media in the country, to immediately begin the licensing process for social media activities in the country.
Twitter’s public policy team said Saturday they were “deeply concerned” about the suspension.
“Access to the free and #open Internet is an essential human right in modern society,” tweeted the team. “We will work to restore access to everyone in Nigeria who uses Twitter to communicate with the world and connect with the world #KeepitOn.”
On Wednesday, Buhari published a tweet that has since been deleted from Twitter. It was related to the civil war in Nigeria in 1967 and resulted in the president being banned from the social media platform for 12 hours.
“Those of us who have been in the fields for 30 months and been through the war will treat them in the language we understand,” he wrote, according to Reuters. He was referring to suspected separatist militants in the southeast, the Associated Press reported.
Some said the tweet posed a genocide threat against the Igbo cultural group.
Politician Kingsley Moghalu said Behari’s message was “not the word he should say as President”.
“I think language is important when you are a leader and when you are faced with a lot of crises because that language can be interpreted in many ways,” said Moghalu.
A joint statement released on Saturday by diplomatic missions from Canada, the European Union, the Republic of Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States expressed “disappointment” with the ban on Nigeria.
“We strongly support the basic human right to freedom of expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria and around the world, and these rights apply both online and offline,” the statement said. “Banning systems of expression is not the solution. These measures prevent access to information and trade at the precise moment Nigeria needs to promote inclusive dialogue, expression and exchange of vital information during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. ”
The Twitter Policy defines abusive behavior as “attempting to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice”. Corporate policy says: “Abusive behavior can not only endanger people’s safety, but also lead to physical and emotional stress for those affected.”