The new federal government directive may be the beginning of what the government had planned to do over the years — the regulation of social media.
The suspension of Twitter is not going to be the only affected social media.
The federal government on Friday directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence licensing all Over-the-Top (OTT) and social media operators in Nigeria.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, disclosed this in a statement on Friday.
The Nigerian government had also indefinitely suspended the operations of Twitter, the microblogging and social networking service in the country.
“The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria,” the minister said.
WHAT ARE OTT SERVICES?
Over-the-Top (OTT) services are essential media services offered directly to viewers via the internet. Most often, such contents can be streamed on computers, smartphones, and other devices.
They bypass cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms – the type of media services that NBC traditionally act as controller or regulator.
In Nigeria, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, FB Messenger, Skype, iROKOtv, and Netflix are currently running on OTT.
HOW WILL THE DIRECTIVE AFFECT SOCIAL MEDIA OPERATIONS?
One of the avenues through which Nigerian citizens air their views on the actions and policies of government have been through social media platforms. These platforms have given voice and hope to countless citizens on various issues, including politics, opportunities, and economic powers worldwide.
With the regulation, the government will put the users’ right on the line by setting modalities for OTT service operations in the country. The modalities may hamper citizen’s ability to freely and safely express themselves on those platforms.
For instance, India set out internet modalities for the operations of social media giants, which include Facebook, Twitter and others, to take responsibility for every user post on their channels. These rules are also obtainable in China, where social media platforms have to censor content before appearing online.
Social media companies are also at the mercy of the federal government and could be ordered by the authorities to remove any flagged content.
Adeboye Adegoke, a digital right activist at Paradigm Initiative, said the implications are enormous and beyond the big companies like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp.
“The government is targetting the bigger players, but the policy has far implications for the smaller ones, most especially indigenous players providing OTT services like VBloggers, Influencers, etc., providing learning, tutorials, and other consultancy services,” he said.
DAILY GIST had earlier reported that the federal government announced the suspension of Twitter’s operations indefinitely in the country. This was contained in a statement signed on Friday by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and made available to Journalists.
Twitter though in a response to the development said; “The announcement made by the Nigerian Government that they have suspended Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is deeply concerning.
“We’re investigating and will provide updates when we know more.” President Buhari had said those misbehaving by attacking police stations, prisons and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, especially in the South-East would be treated in the language they understand. The president had also said those plotting the downfall of his administration will soon get the shock of their lives.
”Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”Buhari had tweeted.
There was however a massive outrage on Twitter as many users accused the president of threatening a section of the country.
They also asked Twitter to suspend the president account, whom they accused of bias. On Wednesday, Twitter pin-point one of the tweets, saying it violates its rules.
Reacting to the development on Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture accused Twitter of a double standard. Mohammed said the social media giant had conveniently ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and his cohorts.
He said Twitter ignored Kalu’s remarks that encouraged the killing of Police personnel and the show of similar biases during the ENDSARS protest where government and private properties were looted and set on fire, considering it human rights.
Mohammed who wondered why the organisation now found President Buhari’s tweet offensive, said Twitter’s role is suspicious and Nigeria will not be fooled