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Tensions between Twitter and Nigeria escalated this week after the country took steps to ban the platform. Days before the ban came into force Twitter removed a tweet made by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, claiming it breached its rules regarding abusive behaviour. In retaliation, Nigeria has opted to make it impossible to access the site from within the country.
The Nigerian Government said it has “indefinitely suspended” Twitter’s operations in the country.
The Minister of Information and Culture issued a statement on Friday banning the social media platform.
The statement read: “The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria”.
The country accused the social media company of allowing its platform to be used for “activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Mobile phone networks also blocked access to the social media platform.
The move came after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for breaching the site’s rules.
Some users saw his post, which referred to Nigeria’s civil war four decades ago, as a veiled threat towards a secessionist movement in the south-east of the country.
The Nigerian Government said the tweet’s removal was “disappointing”.
The Government said: “There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences.”
The Nigerian Government has toyed with the idea of regulating social media sites since the current administration came into office in 2015.
Deleting the president’s tweet was seen as the final straw.
In a statement, Twitter said it is “deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria.”
The statement read: “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.”
Twitter said it removed the tweet from President Buhari because it violated the company’s “abusive behaviour” policy.
The tweet in question referenced the civil war in Nigeria’s Biafra region during the late 1960s.
According to Reuters, President Buhari’s removed tweet said: “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat” the secessionists “in the language they understand.”
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In the wake of the ban, many Nigerians took other avenues to access the site.
The country’s main opposition party described the move as “unwarranted” and “pushing Nigerians to the wall.”
“Thank God for VPN” started trending on Twitter as many Nigerians celebrated being able to circumvent the ban through the use of a virtual private network (VPN).
The move has incited condemnation from around the globe, with many countries, including Britain, calling on authorities to lift the ban.
This is not the first time Twitter has taken such action against controversial tweets from politicians.
Twitter permanently banned former US president Donald Trump because of concerns about his incitement of violence.
Prior to this ban, Twitter had obscured a number of his tweets with warning labels.
Facebook also suspended Mr Trump indefinitely this year, saying the ban would remain in effect until at least 2023.
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