CITAD Calls For Immediate Restoration Of Access To Twitter

TECH DIGEST – The Executive Director of the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Dr Y. Z. Ya’u, has called for the immediate restoration of access to Twitter.

He also called on the National Assembly to declare the banning of Twitter illegal and unconstitutional.

Ya’u said the country had to proactively safeguard against similar action to other OTT.

He described the federal government’s decision to ban Twitter operations in Nigeria as undemocratic and unconstitutional.

Ya’u, who was speaking at a press conference on Saturday in Kano, also said the government had been ill-informed about the decision.

The federal government, on Friday through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension following the micro-blogging site’s decision to delete a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for violating its community standards.

But CITAD said the quality of advice that Buhari received showed the level of ignorance of the working of Over the top (OTTs) in the world.

Dr Ya’u said: “First, Twitter does not need to be in Nigeria for its business to strive.

“By suspending its operation in the country the government is not hurting the interests of Twitter but rather jeopardising the jobs of the Nigerian staff of Twitter and more fundamentally, derogating the right of Nigerians to freedom of expression which is guaranteed in both our constitution and in the Africa Peoples and Human Rights which Nigeria is a signatory to, among other covenants of human rights.

”By shutting down access to Twitter for the millions of Nigerians, the government has totally curtailed the rights of Nigerians to this service.

“Secondly, it shows the lack of understanding of the state of technology in the world.

“Many countries have unsuccessfully tried to block social media access for their citizens, but the increasing number of by-pass technologies means that such action is fruitless and rather a drain on the useful resource that could be used to support educating citizens on how to use the internet.

“Thirdly, when government argues that Twitter was selective in punishing misuse of its platform, it betrays a lack of understanding of the issues at hand.

”Twitter, like any other OTTs, has its community standards. Violating any of these standards elicits punishment which ranges from deletion to suspension and to even outright ban on the platform.

“One of the standards is that no message that is threatening violence against other people should be allowed on the platform.

“Clearly, the President message was a threat to violence. It does not matter that he was responding to a violent situation.

“That other people had, in the past, made similar messages and were not so punished is not an argument for two wrongs do not make a right.

“It only illustrates the fourth nativity of the government. When the Government or the President noticed that some people were spreading messages inciting or inciting violence, what they ought to do was to flag this off with Twitter.

“Once a message is flagged, the relevant OTT (in this case Twitter) is duty-bound to respond to it by taking action.

“When it is dissatisfied with the action taken, it can appeal the case and in the case of Facebook, it has a global Independent Board of Oversight which deals with controversial appeals and whose decisions or rulings are binding on the OTT.

“The other aspect of the naivety of the government’s response is that it does not understand the nature of hate speech for which it has over a long period been pushing for legislation.

“Clearly, if President Buhari were the President of USA when Twitter banned President Trump, he probably could have ordered the army to take over the company and dragged its management and owners to prison.

“This intolerance of dissenting views is dangerous to democracy and unacceptable,” the CITAD Executive Director added.

He also expressed the fear that the act is a preamble to the long ambition of the government to control access to social media in the country.

He explained that the government ought to have educated citizens on how to use social media and not how to prevent them from using it.