Twitter’s Nigerian users face a dilemma: Leave the platform or tweet and be arrested.
On Friday, Nigeria banned Twitter — yes, the entirety of Twitter — from the country.
The move comes after Twitter deleted a tweet from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday. The company also suspended Buhari from using the platform for 12 hours.
According to , Twitter said the tweet violated its abusive behavior policies. Many Nigerians had reported the president’s tweet as well.
Ironically, the Nigerian government announced its “indefinite” suspension of Twitter on…Twitter.
The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.
— Fed Min of Info & Cu (@FMICNigeria) June 4, 2021
“The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria,” reads the beginning of the announcement posted to the service.
On Saturday, the Nigerian government started blocking access to Twitter from within the country.
Twitter publicly responded to the ban of its service in Nigeria on its @Policy account.
We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society.
We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #KeepitOn
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) June 5, 2021
“We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria,” reads the company’s tweet. “Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world. #KeepitOn.”
Earlier in the day, “Thank God For VPN” started trending on Twitter, a reference to virtual private networks. The tweets were coming from users in Nigeria who were using VPN services, which help obfuscate your IP address. Using VPNs, Nigerians were able to work around the ban and access the Twitter platform.
Unfortunately for the people of Nigeria, though, any workarounds to access the platform could result in legal trouble. In an on Saturday, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami announced that the government would arrest and prosecute anyone in Nigeria caught using Twitter. The social media platform has users located in the country.
The tweet from Nigerian President Buhari that caused this whole situation is very reminiscent of the types of content that resulted in former U.S. President Donald Trump’s from the platform.
Buhari regional secessionists in the country’s southeast, who he blames for recent arson attacks on government offices and police stations.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War,” said Buhari in the now-deleted tweet. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
The tweet refers to the Nigeria-Biafra war, a brutal civil war that lasted from 1967 to 1970. Millions of people died in the war. Buhari himself is a former Nigerian military leader who fought against secessionists in the 1980s.
While the U.S. has certain protections that would prevent this exact scenario from happening here, American Twitter shouldn’t be breathing a sigh of relief that this couldn’t happen at all.
It wasn’t long ago, when Trump was still president, that the U.S. government was the viral video platform TikTok from the country due to its ties to China. Trump’s actions resulted in a slew of legal battles and forced TikTok’s parent company to pursue a sale of the app, which is still currently .