Nigeria bans itself to irrelevance
Twitter isn’t having a good time when it comes to dealing with governments of a certain type lately.
As I detailed yesterday, they are facing a choice in India right now over whether it makes sense to continue to operate there due to liability laws making them responsible for what users post. That’s a risky situation to find yourself in when there can be political considerations to what is and isn’t acceptable.
Today, I want to focus on another part of the world where Twitter is finding itself in a difficult spot. Although in this case, there’s no choice to make — they’ve been banned outright.
I’m referring to Nigeria, a country where the current government seemingly not seen a technology that it isn’t afraid of and that it won’t try to ban. It effectively did just that with crypto in January (more on that in a bit) and now has done so with Twitter.
The Twitter ban came after the platform deleted Tweets from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Those Tweets were deemed to be untruthful and potentially dangerous. Most of the world thinks Twitter was probably right here, but it doesn’t really matter as it relates to this discussion. The bottom line is that Buhari reacted to the deletions by burning it all down.
You cannot legally access Twitter in Nigeria now and no one knows when that will change.
As stated, this is similar to what they did with crypto back in January. Then, they reacted to the massive popularity of crypto trading by young people by trying to stamp it out. The reason for that was simple: control. Bluntly, this is a government that serves its own interests, not its people, and anything that allows people to gain financial independence, or communicate freely as with Twitter, is seen as a threat that needs to be stamped out.
Twitter deleting the Tweets was just the excuse, not the impetus.
And, just like with the crypto ban, it’s working about as well. It turns out that Nigerians know what VPNs are and how to set up sock puppet Twitter accounts. Those that want on the platform are still on the platform.
What should worry the government even more, however, is that a lot of the activists that were openly communicating on Twitter are now operating in the shadows, outside of the view of the government. Just like crypto traders are still trading, just doing so in ways that channel the investment offshore.
The more the government desperately tries to control the people the less control it has. That is the definition of irony and it should be a lesson for any government when it comes to policing the internet and Social Media.
The genie is out of the bottle. People in the developing world have seen what open financial and communication platforms can offer them. They aren’t going back to the days when their government controlled everything.
No matter how many things they ban.