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The Implication Of ICT Regulation On Social Media In Nigeria: A Case Study Of The Ban On Twitter

By Jane Agbai Eme
09 December 2021   |   2:38 pm
Change in innovation is expectedly trailed by regulatory laws. ICT regulation is a set of rules that guides the use of ICT systems. ICT has advanced throughout the long haul and has come to stay in Nigeria. A lot of establishments exist in Nigeria tending to grouped spaces in human life. In the ICT locale,…

Change in innovation is expectedly trailed by regulatory laws. ICT regulation is a set of rules that guides the use of ICT systems. ICT has advanced throughout the long haul and has come to stay in Nigeria. A lot of establishments exist in Nigeria tending to grouped spaces in human life. In the ICT locale, this is certifiably not an extraordinary case as different laws have been approved to control various pieces of ICT. Hence, the objective of this National ICT Strategy is to give a structure to smooth out the ICT area and upgrade its capacity to catalyse and support financial advancement basic to Nigeria’s vision of turning into one of the best economies.

Simultaneously, this strategy will make Nigeria become an information-based economy and will be utilised to foster activity plans, sub-sectoral strategies and explicit execution rules as proper. This article will hinge its analysis on the effect of some regulatory policies on social media using a recent occurrence in Nigeria.

[FILES] A man looks at newspapers at a newsstand in Abuja, Nigeria June 5, 2021. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Social media platforms are computer-based interactive technologies that allow the creation and/or exchange of information, ideas and career interests via virtual communities and networks. It is a free spot for all, with critical attributes of an ideal and productive market. According to an analysis by Statista, the number of social network users in Nigeria in 2021 is approximately 43 million, and this figure is projected to grow to 103 million users by 2026.

In recent times, there are so many developed and underdeveloped social media platforms that exist in Nigeria, but Twitter seems to be one of the frequently accessed. The policy guide of Twitter highlights its objective as

“…to serve the public conversation. Violence, harassment and other similar types of behaviour discourage people from expressing themselves and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in public conversation freely and safely.”

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On Friday, June 4, 2021, the Nigerian government announced it was suspending Twitter’s operations in the country. This move comes after Twitter deleted a tweet by the president of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for breaching the site’s rules. The sub-rule under Safety is “violence” and it states that “You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people”. The tweet made by the President allegedly refers to the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War and threatens to treat those misbehaving “in the language they will understand”. It also follows a recent spate of attacks on offices, mainly in the south-east, blamed on regional secessionists.

Consequently, the tweet did not adhere to Twitter’s regulatory policy on violence, so it was deleted. Thus, The Federal Government affirms that the platform was being used for activities capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence like the use of the platform to organise, coordinate and execute criminal activities, propagate fake news and promote ethnic and religious sentiments, hence the reason for the suspension.

It’s unequivocal to posit that Twitter has helped to give voices to many Nigerian youths, encouraged the growth of small businesses and provided job opportunities for the unemployed, and the ban on Twitter has really affected most social media users. The NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool estimates its impact on the Nigerian economy as it states that Nigeria loses N102.77m ($250,600) every hour as a result of the ban. Also, FDC affirms that there is a sharp increase in youth unemployment and investor scepticism to which would negatively affect technology and e-commerce space.

In a country, the governmental organs decide major guidelines for action directed at the future and these guidelines formally aim at achieving what is the public interest by the possible means. Following the suspension of Twitter, the federal government constituted a presidential committee along with its Technical Team to engage Twitter to explore the possibility of resolving these issues- National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical Presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution and Local Content. Hence, the ban is to be lifted only if these conditions are met to allow the Nigerian citizens to continue the use of the platform for businesses and positive engagements. This is to ensure that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety.

It is difficult to achieve innovation without protecting ideas. The advent of new technologies in the form of social media has opened many doors for socio-economic and political development in Nigeria. The conditions given by the Nigerian government to Twitter are a form of ICT Regulation that will contribute to higher productivity and growth and the creation of more and better jobs in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, this policy is future-oriented as it targets altering the future and making futuristic improvements. In addition, ICT doesn’t develop in Isolation rather, it develops in accordance with the industrial environment it encounters, hence the demand by the Nigerian government for the projection of local content and dispute resolution in Nigeria on Twitter.

In as much as the conditions highlighted by the federal government has alluring benefits to its citizens, the delay in accepting these conditions by Twitter will strongly affect small businesses that are on Twitter, slow down technological progress and if Twitter violates the stipulated regulation, it will hurt the public.

Finally, an ICT regulation may inhibit or stimulate technological changes, as can be seen where people opt for other means to access Twitter after its ban in Nigeria. When technology is used correctly, it can be extremely helpful in furthering the prosperity of economies, as a good percentage of the country’s GDP is generated by micro-entrepreneurs by creating new jobs and generating new ideas that help the economy.

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