Nigerian government threatens to suspend Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others alongside Twitter

The Nigerian government on Tuesday threatened to suspend all social media platforms that are deemed promoters of national disunity.

The Nigerian Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Information, Justice, and Communication to answer questions on the ban on prominent social-networking site Twitter.

The Nigerian government announced June 4 its decision to suspend Twitter indefinitely, which was met with immediate outrage and criticism from many, even sparking a lawsuit against the government.

The United States condemned the decision and State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.”

The Nigerian government is rejecting the widespread accusation that its ban of Twitter is an attempt to silence dissent, with Alhaji Lai Mohammed saying Tuesday, “There was no intention of the federal government to stifle free speech in the country. The only reason we suspended Twitter is that it was promoting disunity. Its activities are inimical to the unity of the country.”

“We want Twitter to be registered first in the country before they can operate,” he said, also reportedly asserting that the Nigerian government would not hesitate to suspend other social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google hangout, if they are found to be promoting posts or statements capable of destabilizing the country.

Despite the Nigerian government’s insistence that its ban of Twitter is not meant to stifle free speech, many continue to raise concerns that the seemingly arbitrary suspension of social media networks and platforms poses a severe threat to the value of free and open discourse.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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