Twitter suspended in Nigeria amid face-off over president's tweet

The country will even try to prosecute people who dodge the suspension.

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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari poses before the opening session of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies on May 18, 2021 in Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter is once again facing blowback for taking action on a political leader's tweets. As Reuters reports, Nigeria says it has suspended Twitter for allegedly "undermining" the country by removing a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari. Twitter said the post violated its abuse policy by threatening to punish secessionists that allegedly attacked government buildings.

Attorney general Abubakar Malami, meanwhile, claimed the nation would prosecute people who tried to circumvent the suspension using VPNs and similar tools.

It's not clear how comprehensive the suspension will be. Twitter's web version wasn't accessible on some Nigerian phone networks as of the morning of June 5th, but both the app and website were usable on other providers.

Twitter unsurprisingly objected to the suspension. The company said in a tweet that it was "deeply concerned" by Nigeria's actions, and that it considered the open internet an "essential human right."

The incident reflects the fine line Twitter frequently tries to walk between claims of openness and honoring both its own policies as well as local laws. While it often balks at censorship and potential privacy intrusions, it also bends to local laws sometimes meant to block tweets or increase access to sensitive information.

The company has also routinely drawn criticism from multiple sides when applying its rules to political leaders. While some have accused Twitter holding leaders to a separate standard, others have blasted the social network for allegedly censoring voices when it does take action. Twitter was unlikely to find a happy middle ground in Nigeria — it's just a question of how much damage the social media giant suffers.

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