The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has just bought Twitter for $44 billion, with the firm intention of expanding freedom of expression and reducing regulation of a platform banned for seven months by the Nigerian authorities for failing to effectively moderate its content.
At that time, the suspension came with a ban on opening offices in Nigeria. Abuja seems to be eagerly awaiting Twitter’s new direction.
Nigeria vs Twitter
When Elon Musk wants to tackle regulations that he considers too restrictive, the Nigerian government defends the absolutely opposite approach. In June last year, Nigeria suspended Twitter after a controversial tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari was deleted. A decision condemned by the West and by several rights groups.
The government accused Twitter of being the go-to platform for dissidents and separatists, as evidenced by the #EndSARS protests. Abuja then undertook a major housekeeping in the regulation of the platforms, insisting that they open offices in Nigeria after obtaining an operating license.
>> To read on The Africa Report: Nigeria: How Musk’s plan for less regulation could set Abuja & Twitter on collision course
Essentially, this move aims to impose on social media the same standards as the tightly regulated broadcasting stations, which constantly receive directives from the National Broadcasting Commission (National Broadcasting Commission-NBC). NBC has repeatedly been accused of arbitrarily imposing fines on broadcast stations.
According to a bill, the government is seeking to empower this commission so that it has full latitude to order platforms to remove content that it deems non-compliant with its regulations.
Last January, he ended up lifting Twitter’s suspension saying that the company had agreed to open an office in the country, register with the Trade Affairs Commission and appoint a representative in the country before the end of March.
Elon Musk is someone who thinks outside the box and that’s what society sometimes needs
Yet, more than a month after the deadline, the social media platform has still not registered, nor has anyone been named as Twitter’s representative in Nigeria.
A good thing
The Tesla boss has also been known to promote the use of cryptocurrencies and some analysts believe he could use Twitter to spread the word. Here again, Abuja’s position is diametrically opposed: the government recently fined two banks almost $2 million for violating regulations prohibiting customers from carrying out cryptocurrency transactions.
Even if Twitter seems like a stone thrown into the pond of the Nigerian government, some temper this vision of things. As Taiwo Oyedele, analyst and head of tax for West Africa at PwC: he argues that less regulation can be a good thing, arguing that it was the removal of Buhari’s tweet that put the platform on a collision course with the government.
“It is clear that Elon Musk is a disruptor, someone who thinks outside the box and that is what society sometimes needs. Yet, even though he owns Twitter 100%, he must act within the rules set by the government. Admittedly with him, Buhari’s tweet probably wouldn’t have been taken down; but we must guard against extreme behavior, when anyone will be free to say anything. What Twitter needs to do is put the public interest first. »
Deleting Buhari’s tweet put the platform on a collision course with the government
Taiwo Oyedele adds that with the upcoming elections and the coming demise of the Buhari administration, Twitter has no reason to open an office in Nigeria: “This issue is just an attempt by the government to save face. »
Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohammed has yet to respond to comments about Twitter’s delay in opening an office in Nigeria and the platform’s plan to reduce regulations.