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Twitter blocked in Nigeria over presidential tweet removal

Twitter has been suspended in Nigeria, after the microblogging service removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari about regional successionists in the country.

Announced on Friday, Nigeria’s government declared it would be suspending “indefinitely” the operations of Twitter in Nigeria. According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ban was due to the “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”

While it was unclear how the suspension would take place at the time of the announcement, Reuters reports it has taken the form of a spotty suspension. On Saturday, the Twitter website wasn’t accessible for some mobile carriers, with partial outages for the iOS app, depending on the Internet connection.

Twitter is looking into the “deeply concerning” suspension and “will provide updates when we know more.”

The offending tweet from Buhari was removed from Twitter on Wednesday, with the service citing its policy regarding abusive behavior. The tweet made a threat to punish groups who were blamed for attacks on the country’s government buildings.

On Friday, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture posted a statement on Twitter announcing the suspension.

Twitter has a turbulent relationship with Nigeria, with CEO Jack Dorsey calling his followers to donate bitcoin to assist demonstrators seeking police reform, amid a protest crackdown in 2020. The information minister was also apparently angry with Twitter for opening its first African office in Ghana rather than Nigeria, with the minister believing Twitter was influenced by misrepresentations in the media.

The takedown occurs at a time when social media networks are facing intense scrutiny over accusations they are censoring some political speech. Social network chiefs have testified before the U.S. Congress over the matter in October 2020.

In Florida in May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to tackle “big tech censorship” that would introduce daily fines for noncompliance.

On June 4, Facebook announced it was maintaining its ban on the former U.S. President Donald Trump until January 2023, and would reevaluate its position at that time.

The fledgling audio-based social app Clubhouse was blocked in Oman in March, with critics believing it was an attempt to censor the app’s users. The local telecommunications regulator said it was due to a lack of a permit to operate in the country.

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