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Twitter: The Upwards Trend Of Countries Banning The Platform

source: TechCrunch.com

Twitter is a platform built upon creating short, bitesize posts. Having grown to over 300 million monthly active users, there are also 199 million monetizable daily active users. Inevitably, the result is often opinionated and contentious, ultimately political. The line between ‘freedom of expression’ vs public and individual safety is blurred. Increasingly, Twitter has struggled to appease. Facebook’s was recently criticised by human rights groups who claimed they were censoring pro-Palestine posts, and controversy over social media companies handling of the 2020 election means the question of censorship is germane. That being said, the distinction between hate speech, over free speech, needs to be considered.

As of 2019, #Twitterban has become an increasingly colloquial tag. In early June, Nigeria became the most recent country to prohibit the platform, joining eight other countries. President Muhammadu Buhari threatened separatist groups, claiming he would deal with them “in the language they understand”. Alluding to the country’s civil war, Buhari was being undoubtedly divisive, opening wounds from a 50-year-old event. Combined with an undeniable threat of violence, Twitter blocked Buhari from tweeting for 12 hours, ordering him to delete the post. He refused.


This is not the first time Twitter has (contentiously) silenced an individual on their social network. Donald Trump, from the campaign to the presidency, utilised Twitter in an outstanding way, creating a direct flow of thoughts and an almost personal connection between voter and president. Shifting demographics, a divided democrat party and distrust with politicians were a whirlwind that allowed 2016’s success. Twitter cannot take credit for the success, but it undoubtedly helped. Trump popularity was falling before his ban, but only plummeted further with his removal. Twitter’s actions were contentious, but the platform survived. The motive for Trump’s ban was the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Both here, and with Buhari, Twitter drew the line at violence. According to Twitter’s Help Centre, there are three reasons for an account being suspended:

-account security being at risk (hacking)
-Abusive Tweets or behaviour.

The latter focuses on suspending an account if it has been reported as violating their Rules surrounding abusive behaviour (like sending threats to others). In both cases, Twitter acted within the code of conduct, even if this is questioned by some as censorship. So, what happens when the roles reverse when the media itself is banned? In China Twitter is banned, but so are several other Western social media networks. People can try to circumvent the Twitter ban, which does not stop authorities devoted to tracking them. Similarly, North Korea has banned Twitter, although their government generally does not allow its citizens to access foreign websites. These are the extremes of censorship. Egypt cut off access to Twitter during the 2011 Arab Spring protests, which is a more helpful point of comparison, being relevant to Twitter over general censorship.

List of Countries where Twitter is Banned:

- North Korea

- China

- Iran

- Turkmenistan

- Nigeria

Yet, as a host of political content and celebrator of expression, does the Nigerian government have a point? The president claimed twitter was “undermining Nigeria's corporate existence”, and it was undoubtedly involving itself in a political matter. Freedom of expression is vital to democracy, but the media giant has faced issues over the content it has allowed.

There is something inherently dangerous in the prior statement, however. Orwell’s Animal Farm taught us too chillingly the vice of gradual power-grabbing. Twitter has issues to deal with over censorship: it cannot afford to be seen as dictating politically acceptable content. That being said, the media platform needs to uphold its guidelines. They were within their terms of use with Nigeria, but they resultingly lost an audience.

Further reading:

Nigerian government threatens to rein in press after Twitter ban
Nigeria’s decision to ban Twitter has no legal basis. Here’s why


Linkedin: Joe Bray

Twitter: __joe_b___


Twitter: The Upwards Trend Of Countries Banning The Platform Reviewed by Joe Bray on Friday, July 23, 2021 Rating: 5

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