News - January 13, 2022

Twitter returns, as Nigerian govt. lifts 221 days suspension

MEDIATRACNET

Twitter on Thursday resumed normal operations in Nigeria after the Federal Government lifted the seven months and seven days (about 221 days) suspension imposed on the popular social media in June last year.

The Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, who announced the decision on Wednesday in Abuja, said President Muhammadu Buhari has already approved the immediate lifting of the ban.

On June 5 last year, the Federal Government wielded the big stick, by ordering the indefinite suspension of Twitter in the country after being accused of allowing the platform to be used to promote activities considered a threat to national security.

Minister of Information and Culture, Layi Mohammed, had justified the suspension with allegations that Twitter allowed the platform to be used by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others.

The DG said the approval was given following a memo to the President by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ibrahim, on the need to lift the ban based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation.

Following the suspension order, the President constituted a seven-man Presidential Committee to engage Twitter Inc. and subsequently, a 20-member Technical Committee of all relevant government agencies on the issue.

Inuwa said the Technical Committee engaged and worked directly with the Twitter team on the immediate and remote causes of the suspension.

He said the issues bordered on National Security, Cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform and the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria.

As conditions for lifting the suspension, the DG said the government asked Twitter to address the legal registration of its operations in Nigeria, resolve the controversy on taxation, and managing prohibited publications in line with Nigerian laws.

Although Twitter agreed to meet all the conditions, the Federal Government was insisting on an execution timeline, starting this week.

“Our engagement with Twitter opens a new chapter in global digital diplomacy and sets a new operational template for Twitter to come back stronger for the benefit of Nigerians.

The resolutions with Twitter. Inc. Included a commitment to establish a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022.

The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to demonstrate its long-term commitment to Nigeria, apart from appointing a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities.

In addition to the Global Public Policy team that would directly be available through a dedicated communication channel, Twitter also agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under the Nigerian law.

Also, Twitter agreed to enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals, while the Partner Support Portal would provide a direct channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules.

Besides, the DG said the Law Enforcement Portal would provide a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian Laws.

“The new global reality is that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of our society, social interaction and economic choices. These platforms can be used as either a tool or a weapon. Every nation is grappling with how to balance its usage efficiently.

“Without balancing, every citizen’s security, privacy, social well-being, and development are at stake. Therefore, our action is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for our nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the Company,” Inuwa said.

He said the government’s engagement with Twitter has been very respectful, cordial, and successful, resulting in the resolution of the impasse and laying a foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities.

The DG identified Twitter as a platform of choice for many Nigerians, ranging from young innovators to public sector officials who find it helpful to engage their audience.

He said the government’s resolution would help Twitter improve and develop more business models to cover a broader area in Nigeria.

Also, he said the Federal Government would provide a conducive environment for Twitter and other global tech companies to achieve their potential and be sustainably profitable in Nigeria.

While appreciating Nigerians, especially the youths for their understanding over the long wait to resolve this impasse, he said the Federal Government was happy that the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable.

He identified some of the gains to include ongoing economic and training opportunities as Twitter continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria; getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses; revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria; smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian government and Twitter leading to mutual trust; reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc., and working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.

Taken together, these represent a comprehensive compliance apparatus.Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and work with the FGN and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practises, applicable in almost all developed countries.

Urging Nigerians to reciprocate government gesture in lifting the suspension, the DG advised that they be patriotic citizens, by being mindful of the things they post through Twitter, saying: “anything illegal offline is also illegal online, and that committing a crime using a Nigerian Internet Protocol (IP) is synonymous with committing a crime within our jurisdiction.

“Considering Twitter’s influence on our democracy, our economy, and the very fabric of our corporate existence as a Nation, our priority is to adapt, not ban, Twitter.

“The FGN is committed to working with Twitter to do anything possible to help Nigerians align and navigate Twitter algorithmic design to realise its potentials while avoiding its perils,” he said.

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