President Joe Biden’s administration has publicly rebuked the Nigerian government after it banned Twitter and threatened arrests over its usage—just days after former President Donald Trump, praised the African country for the decision.
“Unduly restricting the ability of Nigerians to report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to reporters Thursday. “Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.”
Nigeria indefinitely suspended Twitter’s operations in the country last week and has threatened to prosecute Nigerians who seek out alternative ways of using the platform, after the company removed a post from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that it flagged as abusive and temporarily froze his account.
Trump, who was permanently suspended from Twitter after a mob of his supporters stormed the United States Capitol on January 6, applauded the country’s decision and suggested that he should have done the same after he was removed from the platform, which he frequently used to send direct missives to his supporters and trash his detractors.
“More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech—all voices should be heard. In the meantime, competitors will emerge and take hold,” Trump said in a statement emailed to reporters in a style that echoed his Twitter tone. “Who are they to dictate good and evil if they themselves are evil? Perhaps I should have done it while I was President.”
Nigeria’s retaliation against Twitter has sparked outrage in the country, where an estimated 40 million people use the social media platform.
Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the government’s decision to try to block Twitter, which it described as providing “social media widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Amnesty International wrote on Twitter.
The Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission also has ordered all TV and radio broadcasters to stop using Twitter.
“We support Nigeria as it works towards unity, peace, and prosperity,” Price said. “As its partner, we call on the government to respect its citizens’ right to freedom of expression by reversing this suspension.”
Buhari’s tweet that prompted his suspension was viewed as a threat to separatists who have been blamed for attacks on offices in the southeast region of the country.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War,” Buhari wrote, referencing the war that stretched from 1967 to 1970. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Culture released a statement—on Twitter—accusing the company of “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
In this photo illustration, the logos of social media applications, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat, Signal, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Snapchat are displayed on the screen of an iPhone on January 11. President Joe Biden’s administration has publicly rebuked the Nigerian government after it banned Twitter and threatened arrests over its usage
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