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Twitter Ban: Probabilities and Realities

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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By Ibrahim Sule

Now that Twitter’s operations are indefinitely suspended in Nigeria, what is next? Well, life goes on. Those ‘who can tweet’ will continue to do that and those ‘who must tweet’ but don’t know how, will continue to explore other possible options until they know how to bypass the suspension and tweet, tweet and tweet again.

The government may also seek to enforce the suspension, well probably against the Twitter, if that’s possible and against those who tweet despite the suspension. Legal issues may as well come up against the Twitter, against Nigerian government and against so many agencies within and outside Nigeria.

By this piece, I will just like to look at the ‘suspension’ with the realist eye as a curious user of social media and the internet from Nigeria.

Practically speaking, as it is currently, can Nigerian government completely ‘suspend’ Twitter’s ‘operations’ in Nigeria?

To begin with, let’s first understand that ‘suspending’ someone’s ‘operations’ will entail closing or shutting down someone’s physical operations, preventing someone from carrying out one’s usual businesses in a given place and taking all the necessary steps to sanction someone if one errs.

When an airline’s operations are suspended all its aircrafts will be grounded and practical steps will be taken to sanction that erring airline. Well, can this happen to Twitter, now that its ‘operations’ are ‘suspended’ in Nigeria?

Well, I can humbly say no. To take home this point, one may first literally, well may be in one’s timidity being a villager like me, ask- does Twitter have office in Nigeria that its ‘operations’ can be ‘suspended’?

Or in a more sarcastic tune one may still ask – when did Nigeria grant Twitter a license that can now be suspended?

As a curious internet user, as far as internet is concerned no one grants anyone any license to use the Internet anywhere and anyhow, to belong or not to belong to any social media, to post or not to post anything, anytime anywhere. In so far as you have the data to get connected, you are your own master, well except if you do not know, but no one can restrict you from accessing or connecting to any site.

Twitter doesn’t have an office in Nigeria in a literal sense, it uses Internet, SMS and so many other ways to connect people and disseminate information among them, its operations are in the ‘cloud’ and therefore cannot be suspended completely the way an airline’s services can be suspended.

Even if the word ‘suspension’ in this sense is loosely used to mean banning or restricting access to Twitter, records have shown that no country, including China (which never ever allowed Twitter access) that has the capacity to completely ban, restrict or prevent its citizens from accessing Twitter, as there are many ways to access it and many more are being invented.

Again, Twitter does not compel anyone to have an account with it or citizens of any country to use its services, all users freely join, so how can you suspend someone you voluntarily ask to accept you, well who suspends who? The worst that can happen in one’s bitter relationship with Twitter if one doesn’t like the way they serve one is for one to quietly deactivate and delete one’s account.

Learning from experience, recently, several countries, like China, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and Turkmenistan that unsuccessfully ban (I don’t want use ‘suspend’) Twitter for some reasons from their countries, succeeded only in opening the eyes of their citizens to several other ways, workarounds and bypasses of using using Internet to access Twitter that can as well be used for certain obnoxious cyber crimes.

While on one hand it is practically impossible to completely ban access to Internet, by extension Twitter, on the other hand, while voyaging for alternatives one may discover alot of hitherto undiscoverable and tempting dark side of the internet that may open one’s vulnerable eyes to floodgates of heinous cyber crimes.

Possibly further, as Twitter makes money from our tweets that its recent market cap is $54.35 billion, Twitter will definitely innovate and propogate several means of accessing its services by Nigerians regardless of whatever suspension and probable consequential prosecutions of innocent users, just as they did in some countries.

Possibly still, some Nigerians may seek to claim a right ‘to tweet’ out of this suspension quagmire by extending their right to freedom of expression under the Nigerian Const. and the emerging right to internet access, also known as the right to broadband or freedom to connect.

Nevertheless, at the end of this unnecessary hullabaloo and uncalled-for brouhaha, the suspension or ban or restriction of Twitter will be discontinued or lifted as it happened in some countries.

We will continue to tweet and tweet, again and again. I wish and pray, by that time or sooner banditry and assassination of innocent poor Nigerians will end, price of commodities will go down and hundreds of our unemployed youths will get jobs and the innovative ones with promising start-ups will get sponsors.

Well, I may be wrong.

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