PowerKee’s Bastion of Privacy #27 — Nigeria implements arbitrary Twitter restriction in response to ban — PowerKee Wallet Beta Testers Application
“Winkelvoss: You’ve got to shut down the internet to shut down Bitcoin. That’s a tall task.
Tim Dillon: “Well they (governments) will do that.”
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has suspended the use of social media behemoth, Twitter. The decision was quickly followed with outrage from Nigerians and several international stakeholders, including governments of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and civil rights organizations among others who immediately criticized this development. This spurred the FGN into giving various explanations for why it took this stance.
In the latest Bastion of Privacy, we highlight the recent events that led to the action by the FGN, with details of some of the offshoots from such a ban. We also consider the implication of such an event, especially in an online world where censorship and restriction is becoming more common.
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Nigerian Government Heavily Criticized
On Friday June 4th, the FGN, through its Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension of Twitter. The announcement came just 24 hours after the minister had criticized Twitter for deleting a tweet made by Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. According to Twitter, the content of the tweet violated Twitter’s “abusive behaviour” policy.
The decision of the FGN to suspend Twitter has been highly criticized by a majority of the over 40 million Nigerians who are active on the platform. Many of the critics believe that the action of the FGN is to display a vendetta against Twitter for deleting the President’s tweet.
Apart from Nigerian Twitter users, other local and international stakeholders have expressed their displeasure towards this act. They have also warned the Nigerian government against what is perceived as an attempt to deny its citizens the right to express themselves in any legitimate way.
Having come under heavy criticism, in what many regard as forms of damage control, the FGN, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geofery Onyema, explained that the government’s action is temporary while giving conditions for lifting the suspension. He also noted that the government acted based on its perception that Twitter is being used as a tool to destabilize the country.
Nigerians Resist Ban, Adopt Alternative Twitter Access
The country’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Abubakar Malami has threatened violators of the new suspension with imminent prosecution. Many Nigerian Twitter users have turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access the platform and make their opinions known. Some prominent religious leaders and even former and serving governors in the country rank among these.
The fear of many Nigerians is that the government could extend this kind of arbitrary restriction to other online platforms. Corroborating this possibility is the fact that there is an existing bill before the country’s national assembly that is seeking to regulate social media.
The FGN has been criticized for being reckless with restrictions whenever they feel threatened. Earlier this year, the nation’s apex bank (CBN) came under heavy criticism for attempting to restrict the use of cryptocurrencies in the country. Censorship and resistance may be becoming a shortcut for the government.
Netizens Find Ways To Avoid Censorship
Many Nigerian Twitter users have turned to technology solutions to continue their use of the major social media platform. Nigerians have also embraced technology solutions to circumvent restrictions in other areas. When it comes to financial restrictions, privacy-focused blockchain networks are one of the most attractive options. Privacy networks like PowerKee facilitate the decentralized transition and storage of a value in a completely anonymous manner.
The actions of the Nigerian government, if not resisted, could spread beyond just Twitter and social media. Moreover, similar restrictions could also arise in different parts of the world, imposing a greater degree of control on netizens. Utilizing the right stack of technology solutions is one way that netizens can fight against such restrictions.
PowerKee is a cryptocurrency network that makes privacy easy. Users can transact cheaply and instantly while maintaining anonymity. The PowerKee protocol uses a mixture of zero-knowledge proofs and coin mixing to provide strong privacy assurances to its users.