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Nigerian operators ordered to block Twitter

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The Nigerian government has ordered mobile operators in the country to block Twitter access, days after the social media platform removed a post from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that violated its abusive behavior policy.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension on Friday with the ministry ironically confirming the news on Twitter, blaming "the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence."

"The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria," the post said.

The ministry also said the federal government has directed the National Broadcasting Commission to immediately commence the process of licensing all over-the-top (OTT) and social media operations in Nigeria.

Buhari's now deleted tweet threatened to punish regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings in the West African country. Twitter also suspended the president's account, leaving it in a "read-only mode" for 12 hours.

Over the weekend, Internet monitor NetBlocks confirmed that access to the Twitter platform and backend servers had been restricted on leading networks MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) confirmed that its members had complied with a directive from the regulator to restrict Twitter usage.

According to Reuters, Nigeria's attorney general has also ordered an immediate prosecution of those who break rules banning Twitter.

Twitter's public policy team posted that it was "deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria," saying access to the free and open Internet 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," it said.

The US Embassy in Nigeria put out a statement saying that the Twitter ban undermines Nigerians' ability to exercise freedom of expression "and sends a poor message to its citizens, investors and businesses."

"Banning social media and curbing every citizen's ability to seek, receive, and impart information undermines fundamental freedoms. As President Biden has stated, our need for individual expression, open public conversation, and accountability has never been greater. The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less communication, alongside concerted efforts toward unity, peace, and prosperity," the Embassy said.

In April, Nigeria's information minister did not react well to news that Twitter had chosen neighboring country Ghana for its first African office, blaming the media for misrepresenting Nigeria.

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— The Staff, Connecting Africa

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