Adeniyi Damilola, Ige Gbenga and Ogunsile Richard
When you hear of Twitter, what comes to your mind? banters, trolls, a news source, or a market hub? The social media platform caters to all the mentioned reasons.
Based on active users, Twitter is one of the most leading, famous, influential, and widely-used social media platforms in the world. The micro-blogging site was founded on March 21, 2006, and launched on July 15, 2006, emerged from a podcasting company named Odeo which was located in San Francisco, the United States of America.
Twitter was originally released as a platform that allows users to share short status updates with groups of friends by sending one text message to a single number.
Naija News understands that the microblogging platform was known as Twttr before it was later changed to Twitter.
Twitter In Nigeria
Before now, Twitter was dominantly used in the US after its official launch in the country.
However, Twitter is quickly penetrating international markets. A good chunk of Twitter’s recent growth is happening outside of the US.
There are still controversies over the actual number of people patronizing the social media platform in Nigeria.
Some reports had claimed that there are 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria, no credible data, however, to back the claims as at the time this report was filed.
A recent report by Africa Check has maintained that the number of Twitter users in Nigeria is around 3 million as of 2021.
Meanwhile, there are valid reports that some countries have a user base of over 10 million, this includes the United Kingdom, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
However, having enjoyed a streak of conversation, socializing, career building, and sensitization on Twitter in Nigeria year in year out, the essence of the bird app gradually began to wane.
Naija News understands that the microblogging platform moved from being an educative, social, and business platform to a dumping site and one has to sieve through many rubbles to get needed information atimes.
The Economic Impact of Twitter in Nigeria
According to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 33.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 from 27.10 percent in the second quarter of 2020.
Note: The unemployment rate simply defines the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force in the country.
This is becoming even more worrisome with the increasing number considering the fact that Nigeria has a population size of over 200 million citizens and about 100 million are struck by poverty.
While it is obvious that the government cannot provide a job for all, the likes of Twitter and other Social Media platforms have suddenly become creative sources to reduce poverty through the exploitation of entrepreneurship ideas.
Naija News can confidently say that the use of Twitter as well as other social media platforms by millions of Nigerians for their entrepreneurial enterprise has greatly led to the sustainability of the environment and has also contributed to economic growth among families.
These entrepreneurs engage their trade through this virtual space and are directly contributing to the sustainability of the environment because they do not operate their various businesses from physical offices.
The continuous use of Twitter as a virtual office for trade and commerce has greatly contributed to environmental sustainability since all of its documents and office accessories are now digital, Twitter, as well as other social media platforms) have long moved away as an instrument for effective communication only, they are now a business hub.
Twitter Abuse: Where Most Nigerians Missed It
While a troop of citizens still maintained the commendable reasons for which Twitter was created, using it mainly as their market hub, a means of networking and interaction, some have eventually found a series of demonizing niches for themselves on the social media platform.
Rather than use the social media space to positively make an impact for themselves and the nation, the abuse became their newfound niche on the microblogging platform.
Even though Twitter keeps Nigerians from various spears of life connected and has many other great uses, negativity has gradually become a norm on the platform.
Here are some ways the microblogging platform has been misused:
Loss of Privacy
Several people are careless about what they post on their social media space, which they can regret later. There is a popular belief that the internet does not forget even when people forget things you say. Certain posts at a particular time might be a hindrance to a futuristic development.
One profile on the microblogging platform alone is enough to dissuade an employer from employing the service of an individual to the certain details such person did not pay attention to. Note that placing sensitive information on networking sites could be harmful to one’s safety as different people around the world have direct access to your information.
Some users on this microblogging platform have their personal information, such as their phone number and wicked people with a fake profile take advantage of this to invite them for job opportunities, only to take advantage of the moment to have carnal knowledge of such persons. Various cases have been reported and more are still been reported.
Twitter over the years has been employed by some people to post a mean comment, send an intimidating message, start a nasty rumour, or upload embarrassing photos which can be damaging to the affected person.
There are many other ills, but for now, let’s examine the recent Twitter ban by the Nigerian government.
Twitter Ban in Nigeria – How Did We Get There?
‘For every problem, there is a solution to it. It is either the solution is already there or yet to be discovered and explored, or it’s being neglected for some reasons’.
Naija News reports that President Muhammadu Buhari-led government officially banned Twitter on the 5th of June 2021 and restricted it from operating in the country.
The ban occurred not long after Twitter deleted tweets made by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari over his threatening message to the southeastern people of Nigeria, predominantly Igbo people.
Buhari had reminded the region of a potential repeat of the 1967 Biafran Civil War due to the ongoing insurgency in Southeastern Nigeria.
Twitter said the President’s post had violated its policy and deleted it without hesitation.
However, the Nigerian government had claimed that the deletion of the president’s tweets was not factored into their decision to suspend operations of the platform, but it was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences”, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The ban was condemned by many civil rights organizations and European countries but the Nigerian government stuck to its guns.
Twitter Ban: How the Buhari Government’s decision affected citizens and the country’s economy
Most citizens, if offered the opportunity to openly react to the ban of Twitter in Nigeria by the Federal Government, would have described the move as a joke taken too far by the incumbent administration.
Naija News understands that while a group of users of the widely patronized microblogging platform were only worried about not being able to converse with their followers and influencers, the 222 days restriction negatively impacted the nation’s economy.
Statistics have proven that the Twitter ban in Nigeria was a multimillion-dollar economic setback for the country.
The few months’ break had impacted businesses of all sizes, from banks to startups who make use of social media for their day-to-day business customer services and dispute resolution.
Thousands of entrepreneurs and vendors whose businesses thrived through social media and have gained visibility through campaigns and viral tweets were victims of the ban as well.
Naija News reports that content creators and marketers who have built a career out of running those campaigns have also suffered the same fate as others after the bird app was banned by the Nigerian government.
According to British firm Top10VPN estimates, the ban has affected around 104.4 million internet users in the country.
The development according to reports had cost the country around $366.9 million.
The firm made the calculations using a tool developed by internet governance watchdog organization Netblocks, and Internet Society, a US advocacy nonprofit organization.
The tool is based on similar methodologies used by organizations such as the Brookings Institution, a US research organization.
NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool affirmed that the country lost N104.02 million ($250,600) every hour to the ban, bringing the daily losses to N2.46 billion.
The nation’s economy according to reports, suffered N546.5 billion lost within the time the social media platform was out of operation.
According to digital report 2021 by Hootsuite, a social media and marketing dashboard, Twitter’s potential advertising audience compared to the total population aged 13 plus in Nigeria is 2.4 per cent, while the quarter-on-quarter change in Twitter’s advertising reach is 17.3 percent.
The implication of this is that Twitter’s penetration in the country is still very poor when compared to other platforms.
Analytically, it equally means that it is unlikely that these 3.05 million adverts audience would be impacted by the American company.
However, while Nigerians were still counting their losses with lamentations, the federal government on Wednesday evening,12th January 2022 announced that it had approved the suspension on Twitter operations in the country to be lifted.
Naija News reports that the development was made public in a statement by the Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi.
The lifting of the suspension eventually became effective from midnight, 13th January 2022 as declared by the government.
Defending its initial decision to ban the social media platform in the country, the government said the immediate and remote cause of the suspension was the unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others.
“These issues bordering on National Security, Cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the FGN to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria,” the government claimed.
Appreciating all Nigerians, especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse, the Buhari administration said the ban had yielded some good for the country.
Some of the gains according to the government include:
a) Ongoing economic and training opportunities as the Company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria;
b) Getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses;
c) Revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria;
d) Smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian Government and Twitter leading to mutual trust;
e) Reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc.; and
f) Working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.
What To Expect After The Resumption of the Microblogging Platform
Like birds let out of a cage, Nigerians have rushed back to Twitter to continue exercising their rights of freedom of expression.
While influencers, career men and women, students and the general public take advantage of the return to accomplish their different missions on the bird app, Twitter INC as stated earlier by the Nigerian government, is expected to monitor the activities of users from the country in other to keep to alleged terms that led to the lifting of the suspension earlier.
The government had mentioned earlier that the lifting of the suspension is contingent on the micro-blogging platform committing to National Security and Cohesion; Registration, Physical presence and Representation; Fair Taxation; Dispute Resolution; and Local Content.
The Buhari administration hopes that citizens would continue the use of the platform mainly for social networking, business promotion and other positive engagements.
Another thing to expect is citizens’ ideologies on the bird app as the 2023 general elections draw near.
Though Nigerians have been admonished to shun social media politics and get their PVCs ready to vote their candidate of choice in the coming elections, it is believed that political topics will still trend with reactions on the bird app as always.
Nigerians are, however, encouraged to stay away from spreading fake news and sharing inciting posts that may result in political and religious crises.