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Twitter’s website is inaccessible in Nigeria after government suspension

ABUJA: Nigeria had indefinitely suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the social media giant removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists. Information Minister Lai Mohammed said the government had acted because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”His ministry also announced Twitter’s suspension on Twitter.

Mohammed did not spell out what form the suspension would take or give more details on the undermining activities. As of the early hours of Saturday, Twitter’s website was inaccessible in Nigeria on some mobile carriers, while its app and website worked on others. Twitter is investigating it “deeply concerning” suspension of operations by the Nigerian government, and “will provide updates.

Buhari’s post threatening to punish groups blamed for attacks on government buildings had violated Twitter’s “abusive behavior” policy. In April, the information minister reacted angrily when Twitter chose to neighbor Ghana for its first African office. The company had been influenced by media misrepresentations of Nigeria, including reports of crackdowns on protests last year.

Demonstrators calling for police reform had used social media to organize, raise money and share alleged proof of police harassment. In the protests’ wake, Mohammed called for “some form of regulation” on social media to combat “fake news.”

A spokesperson for Airtel, one of Nigeria’s largest mobile carriers, on Friday declined to say whether the company had received any government directives about the suspension.MTN, the largest mobile carrier, did not respond to calls and a message-seeking comment.

The Nigerian government has toyed with the idea of regulating social media in the country, and this administration has been obsessed with the idea since it came into office in 2015. Deleting the president’s tweet, however, was seen as the final straw. Twitter helped give Nigeria’s many youths a voice. But in the eyes of the government, the company’s role in galvanizing the country’s young population was a line crossed.


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