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Two days after Twitter removed a tweet from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Government announced it indefinitely banned the social media platform and its services from operating in the country.
Twitter removed Buhari’s tweet on Wednesday threatening to punish regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings, Reuters reports.
Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Friday the government acted to suspend the networking service because of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Mohammed compared Twitter’s actions in Nigeria to those the company took after the riot at the U.S. Capitol in January, including banning the account of former President Donald J. Trump, he said during a news conference after the tweet was removed.
“When people were burning police stations and killing policemen in Nigeria during EndSARS, for Twitter it was about the right to protest,” he said. “But when a similar thing happened on the Capitol, it became insurrection.”
Twitter said Buhari’s post threatening to punish groups blamed for attacks on government buildings had violated Twitter’s “abusive behavior” policy.
When asked about the details of the social media suspension, a ministerial aide told Reuters that they will “wait and see how things will turn out.”
Reuters tested the social media platform in Lagos and Abuja and found that Twitter’s website was inaccessible in Nigeria on some mobile carriers, while its app and website worked on others.
Twitter told Reuters it is investigating its “deeply concerning” suspension of operations by the Nigerian government, and “will provide updates when we know more.”
Demonstrators calling for police reform had used social media to organize, raise money and share alleged proof of police harassment, the article states. Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted to encourage his followers to donate.
In the tweet that was removed, he said: “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Some social media users criticized Buhari’s tweet before it was removed and accusing him of targeting a specific group of people from the largest ethnic group in the southeast, the article states.
Buhari served in the army against the secessionists and was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, and Reuters reports he tweeted that many people misbehaving were too young to remember the deaths and destruction from the civil war.
Police launched an operation in May in southeast Nigeria to put a stop to rising violence and crime, including a series of attacks on police, the article states.
Nigerian authorities blame a banned separatist group and plan to address crimes like banditry, kidnapping, and armed robbery by “confront[ing] criminal elements” through what they call Operation Restore Peace.
Before the Friday statement, Mohammed had previously been critical of Twitter after the social media platform chose Ghana over Nigeria for its first African office.
He said the company had been influenced by media misrepresentations of Nigeria, including reports of crackdowns on protests last year, and called for “some form of regulation” on social media to combat “fake news,” Reuters reports.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule,” Mohammed told reporters Wednesday, per Reuters. “If Mr. President anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views.”