August 16, 2021

Twitter Ban: The Crippling of a Societal Watchdog – Olayinka Ahmed

Twitter Ban: The Crippling of a Societal Watchdog – Olayinka Ahmed

It sounded unbelievable, something that belonged to the 90s and not in the more technology-driven world of today. Not until midnight of June 5th rolled in and the popular mobile network carriers and Internet Service Providers started restricting access to the site did it dawn on the public that indeed the popular social media platform, Twitter, had been taken away from them.

True to our globally acclaimed creative reputation, young Nigerians devised means to utilize the platform despite the ban. Be it through proxy changes or the more commonly used Virtua Private Networks (VPNs), Nigerians regained access to the platform to voice their condemnation of the decision and reassure themselves that the ban would be but temporary.

Alas, days turned into weeks and the prohibition is now well past the 60-day mark. Recently, the Honourable Minister for Information Culture declared that the ban will be lifted in the coming days as FG has found a common ground with Twitter on the issue, with a major component being that the social media behemoth sets up an office in the country. The claim, however, was swiftly denied by Twitter.

Amid the standoff between the two entities, only one party appears to be on the losing side – Nigerians. Much has been made of the economic hemorrhage brought about by the smothering of the platform so just a little context here. NetBlocks, an internet monitoring website, estimates that the country loses N2.5billion daily. Furthermore, a report by Telecompaper, an international ICT news platform, puts it that the national e-commerce sector loses over N2billion daily as businesses have either excluded Twitter, a major part of their marketing strategy, from their businesses or outrightly shut down in fear of running afoul of the law. Bigger brands with greater marketing resources have also had the unfortunate ordeal of moving their businesses to other platforms with lesser real-time engagement at twice the cost.

The engagement aspect of Twitter is something that is often neglected when conversations around the ban are brought up. It is a watchdog feared by both private and public institutions alike due to its potential for content virality. Multiple fraudulent cases, injustice, and abuse of human rights have been uncovered on the platform. It also serves as a go-to for security updates, particularly at this time when insecurity has seen an uptick in most parts of the country.

No social media platform compares to Twitter owing to its retweet and quote tweet features which enable a single post by an individual to be shared with thousands of others. Although the absence of the social media platform is sorely missed by brands as it limits their marketing reach, it has always been somewhat of a double-edged sword. ISPs and banks especially were constantly in the eye of the storm on the platform. There are countless cases where disputes between banks and customers over failed transactions or poor network service moved at snail-esque speed over emails but immediately got the required attention as soon as it became a Twitter conversation.  

On public accountability, we have witnessed cases of corruption, fraud and other malfeasances by public servants brought to life on the platform. Not to mention the #EndSars protests of late 2020 that brought to global attention, the decade-long history of police brutality on the youth population of the country.

To sum up, it is rather disheartening that an administration who rode on the popularity of the platform to assume power in 2015 has suddenly developed an aversion for it merely 6 years on. We will never know if the ban indeed stems from the “double standards” of the platform on deleting the presidential tweet, or the widespread rumour that it is part of a larger scheme by the administration to silence the youth who have found an outlet therewith; the indisputable fact remains that the prohibition serves no one any good. Be it via negotiation between both parties or a change of position by the administration, the Twitter ban has to be lifted sooner rather than later for the good of the country.

Olayinka Ahmed is a digital marketing professional and entrepreneur. He currently serves as the Head of Operations at Devon Troy Copper, a digital marketing and communications agency.