Twitter suspension not just response to deletion of Buhari’s post — Presidency

Garba Shehu

The Presidency on Saturday said the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria was more than a response to the removal of President Muhammadu Buhari’s post.

It said in a statement that the platform has continued to harbour misinformation and “fake news” and should have read all of the president’s post to understand his point.

Twitter deleted Buhari’s Tuesday post where he threatened to deal with the Indigenous People of Biafra “in the language they understand”. The social media giant took down the post after outcry, saying it violated its policies.

However, the statement from the Presidency signed by presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said Buhari’s statement was not a threat, but statement of fact since IPOB is a proscribed organisation.

“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. There has been 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. All the while, the company has escaped accountability,” the statement read.

“Nevertheless, the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing. The censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.

“The President in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA in 2019 said ‘the world was shocked and startled by the massacre in New Zealand by a lone gunman taking the lives of 50 worshippers.’

“This and similar crimes which have been fueled by social media networks risk seeping into the fabric of an emerging digital culture.

“Major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities. They cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other, leading to loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart.

“President Buhari has therefore been warning against social media’s disruptive and divisive influences and the government’s action is not a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter’s preposterous deletion of his tweet which should have been read in full.

“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact.

“A terrorist organisation (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.

“When the President said that they will be treated ‘in a language they understand,’ he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response world over.”

The Presidency also alleged that IPOB has amassed a substantial stockpile of weapons and bombs across the country.

“Twitter does not seem to appreciate the national trauma of our country’s civil war. This government shall not allow a recurrence of that tragedy,” it added.