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We suspended Twitter over support for fake news-Presidency

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

Following outrages that had trailed Federal Government’s suspension of American microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, operations the Presidency has disclosed that the indefinite ban placed on the platform usage was to protect Nigeria’s sovereignty after the social networking service begun to give preference to fake news that had made the country experience real-world violent consequences.

The presidency further disclosed that although the government had been considering the plan with a keen interest on millions of Nigerians hooked to Twitter, the ban was quicken after the United States firm pulled down President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet and videos on Nigeria’s Civil War that ended over 40 years ago without carrying out a thorough review of the comment.

Speaking for the Presidency, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement issued on Saturday barely 24 hours after the government announced the suspension, described the actions of Twitter as disappointing and unprofessional.

Shehu noted that the censoring often carried out by the microblogging firm were seemed to be based on a misunderstanding of the challenges confronting Nigeria presently.

He noted that before the suspension, the president had been cautioning against Twitter and other social media’s disruptive and divisive influences including its usage for cyber-bullying which had often left many families grieving without any source of relief.

The statement reads: “The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. 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. All the while, the company has escaped accountability.

“Nevertheless, the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing. The censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.

“The President in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA in 2019 said “the world was shocked and startled by the massacre in New Zealand by a lone gunman taking the lives of 50 worshippers.”

“This and similar crimes which have been fueled by social media networks risk seeping into the fabric of an emerging digital culture. Major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities. They cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic, and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other, leading to loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart.

“President Buhari has therefore been warning against social media’s disruptive and divisive influences and the government’s action is not a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter’s preposterous deletion of his tweet which should have been read in full.

“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact. A terrorist organisation (Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.

“When the President said that they will be treated “in a language they understand,” he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response the world over.

“This is not promotion of hate, but a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm. The government cannot be expected to capitulate to terrorists.

“IPOB is proscribed under Nigerian law. Its members murder innocent Nigerians. They kill policemen and set government property on fire. Now, they have amassed a substantial stockpile of weapons and bombs across the country. Twitter does not seem to appreciate the national trauma of our country’s civil war. This government shall not allow a recurrence of that tragedy”.

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