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Twitter operations suspended in Nigeria days after President’s post removed

Two days after Twitter removed a post of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian government said that it had indefinitely suspended the micro-blogging platform’s activities in the country. The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture of Nigeria said that it had taken action because of activities “that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

In a series of tweets, the official account of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Culture said, “The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

According to Reuters tests in Lagos and Abuja, Twitter’s website was inaccessible in Nigeria on some mobile carriers, while its app and website worked on others, as of the early hours of Saturday. On Wednesday, the social media giant removed a post by Buhari which threatened punishment for regional secessionists who have been blamed for attacks on government buildings, according to another report by Reuters.

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The Reuters report said Buhari’s tweet, referred to the 1967-70 civil war in the south eastern Biafra region of Nigeria that killed 1 million people. Twitter took it down because it violated its “abusive behaviour” policy leading to a 12-hour suspension of Buhari’s account.

The report said, Buhari, who in the Nigerian army against the secessionists and was the country’s military ruler in the 1980s. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari warned in the tweet that was taken down.

Twitter in a two-front battle in India

Here in India, Twitter has been embroiled in a battle on two fronts — with the Delhi Police and the Indian government. On May 25, when the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force, it was speculated that significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) who do not comply with the rules will be banned in India.

Twitter had raised concerns regarding the appointment of a chief compliance officer, and the demand for proactive monitoring as prescribed under the new rules. In the following days, Twitter was dragged to the Delhi High Court for alleged non-compliance to the rules; where the company informed that they have appointed a resident grievance officer in accordance with the new rules.

On the other hand, Delhi police served a notice and visited two offices of Twitter in connection with an alleged Indian National Congress-created toolkit. Twitter had labelled tweets of BJP politicians including spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on the alleged toolkit prepared by Congress as “manipulated media”.

The tweets alleged that Congress had created this toolkit to defame the Prime Minister and ‘undermine’ the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy. Soon after Delhi Police sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification on the usage of the term “manipulated media” since the matter was under investigation.

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