The U.S. and the European Union (EU) expressed their concerns over Nigeria’s decision to indefinitely suspend Twitter after the social media company deleted a tweet from the president’s account for violating its rules.
In a joint statement issued on Saturday, the diplomatic missions of the EU, U.S., Britain, Canada and Ireland denounced the action which has also been criticized by international human rights groups.
“Banning systems of expression is not the answer,” the statement said.
“Precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue and expression of opinions, as well as share vital information in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added.
“The path to a more secure Nigeria lies in more, not less, communication.”
In the deleted tweet, Buhari had made a reference to the country’s 30-month civil war in 1967-1970, warning “those who wanted the government to fail” to desist from fomenting trouble.
“Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigeria civil war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” the president tweeted on Tuesday night.
Twitter deleted the president’s post on Wednesday, following criticisms from some netizens.
In response to the deleting of the tweet, Information minister Lai Mohammed questioned Twitter’s rules and accused the company of overlooking tweets by leading secessionists in the West African country.
The presidency, however, late on Saturday denied that the Twitter ban was in response to the removal of that post.
Meanwhile, the government also threatened to prosecute violators of the ban in case residents attempt to circumvent it using virtual private networks (VPNs).
Twitter has been embroiled in controversies around the world as governments try to frame their narratives using social media.
Earlier this year, it banned former U.S. President Donald Trump for breakings its rule against glorifying violence, while in India it’s clashed with the government over a request to block accounts because of farmer protests over agricultural laws that the state said included misinformation and threats to national security.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)