Nigerians breaking Twitter ban rules could be prosecuted

Chief legal officer orders prosecution of anyone who refuses to follow the government’s block on social network.

Nigeria’s Attorney General Abubakar Malami has ordered the immediate prosecution of those who try to circumvent the government’s Twitter ban after all mobile operators in the country were ordered to suspend access to the social media giant.

There were no further details about the prosecution and who would be targeted, but many Nigerians took to social media to criticise Saturday’s announcement.

Earlier in the day, telecoms operators in Nigeria said they had complied with a government directive to suspend access to Twitter, two days after the social network deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari’s account for violating its rules.

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) confirmed its members received formal instructions from the government regulator to suspend access.

ALTON members are responsible for the mobile networks that the majority of Nigerians use to access Twitter.

Twitter can still be accessed through the relatively more expensive fixed broadband, which very few Nigerians use. It is unclear if
access through this route will also be blocked. Some users in Nigeria were able to circumvent the ban through the use of a virtual private network (VPN).

Nigeria’s information ministry announced on Friday that the government was “indefinitely” suspending Twitter’s operations. It did not mention Buhari’s deleted tweet, but said the platform was being suspended “for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

Twitter said it had taken the action because the tweet violated the site’s rules against abusive behaviour. The US technology giant also suspended the account for 12 hours.

“The announcement made by the Nigerian Government that they have suspended Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning,” the company said in a statement.

“We’re investigating and will provide updates when we know more.”

The news prompted an immediate backlash among social media users, as well as among human rights activists.

Many groups, including the Nigerian Bar Association, have threatened legal action if the government does not rescind the decision to suspend Twitter.



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