On Friday, the government of Nigeria banned Twitter after the platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buha that some people viewed as “insensitive,” in the verbiage of CNN.
“The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria,” said a statement from the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture.
In that tweet on Tuesday, the Nigerian leader threatened to deal with people in the country’s southeast, who he blames for the recurring attacks on public infrastructure in the region.
“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 wrote in the now-deleted tweet.
— He is a veteran of the Nigeria-Biafra war, which left an estimated 1-3 million people dead during the 1967-70 conflict;
— He is the president of the country and a) likely knows who’s responsible for the attacks on Nigeria’s infrastructure; and b) has a responsibility and duty to protect it and his citizens.
So while what he wrote might have hurt some liberal feelings in the Twitterverse, as the Nigerian leader he is within his rights to say what he said.
But the bottom line is this: He banned Twitter from the country, which, given Twitter’s reach and influence and its abuse of its own censorship powers, seems like exactly the right thing to do.
Nigeria may not be the last country to do so, however: The world’s biggest democracy and the planet’s second-most populist country, India, could be preparing to do the same.
India has told Twitter Inc it has one last chance to comply with new IT rules, or face “unintended consequences” according to a copy of an official letter seen by Reuters.
The new rules – which were announced in February and which became effective at the end of last month – are aimed at regulating content on social media and making firms such as Facebook , its WhatsApp messenger and Twitter more accountable to legal requests.
They also require big social media companies to set up grievance redressal mechanisms and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.
India’s technology ministry wrote to Twitter on May 26 and May 28 on the new rules, but the company’s responses “neither address the clarifications sought by this ministry nor indicate full compliance with the Rules,” said the June 5 letter from the technology ministry to Twitter deputy general counsel Jim Baker.
The letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said that among other things, Twitter had yet to inform the ministry about its chief compliance officer, and its grievance officer and nodal contact person were not employees as mandated by rules.
It said such non-compliance would lead to “unintended consequences” including the possibility that Twitter could be held accountable for content posted on it, an exemption it currently largely enjoys.
For far too long, these social media behemoths have behaved as though they don’t have to be accountable to anyone, for anything they do. Nigeria and India, of all countries, are reminding big tech that they are.