FG: Twitter, the founder vicariously liable for #EndSARS losses

Lai Mohammed

• United States reiterates its condemnation of the suspension

Olawale Ajimotokan

The federal government has said that Twitter and its founder, Mr. Jack Dorsey, are vicariously responsible for the losses suffered by the country during the #EndSARS protest.

Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed said yesterday during his broadcast on “Politics Nationwide”, a Radio Nigeria appeal show, that the microblogging platform and Dorsey were responsible for the support. to #EndSARS events by raising funds and giving visibility. in the countryside.

He also confirmed on the show, monitored by the Nigeria News Agency (NAN), that Twitter had officially written to Nigeria to seek dialogue on issues leading to the indefinite suspension of its operations in the country.

However, the United States has renewed its condemnation of Nigeria for suspending Twitter operations in the country, a move according to senior US officials is a sign of restriction of political space in Nigeria.

Mohammed accused Dorsey of raising money through Bitcoins to sponsor the #EndSARS protest while Twitter was used to fuel the crisis.

He said that when he made these allegations earlier, Nigerians did not take him seriously.

The minister said an independent investigation by an online outlet confirmed that Dorsey had retweeted some of the posts from some of the coalition groups supporting the #EndSARS protest.

He said it was also confirmed that the founder of Twitter asked people to donate to protest organizers through Bitcoins.

The minister said Dorsey launched Emoji to make the EndSARS protest visible on the microblogging site and retweeted tweets from some foreign and local EndSARS supporters.

He added, “If you ask people to donate money via Bitcoins for EndSARS protesters, then you are vicariously liable regardless of the outcome of the protest.

“We have forgotten that EndSARS claimed lives including 37 police officers, six soldiers, 57 civilians while property worth billions of naira was destroyed.

“One hundred and sixty-four police vehicles and 134 police stations were razed, 265 private companies were looted while 243 public assets were looted.

“Eighty-one warehouses were looted while more than 200 brand new buses purchased by the Lagos State government were reduced to ashes,” he added.

The minister said it was unfair to conclude that Twitter’s operation has been suspended indefinitely because it deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet seen as a threat of violence against residents of the Southeast.

He reiterated that the federal government had suspended Twitter because the platform was used to promote the views of those who wanted to destabilize the country.

Mohammed added that Twitter systematically offers its platform to promote agendas hostile to the existence of Nigerian businesses.

“Twitter has become a platform of choice for one separatist promoter in particular.

“The promoter has constantly used the platform to order his loyalists to kill Nigerian soldiers and police, to dilapidate the INEC offices and to destroy all symbols of Nigerian sovereignty.

“Every attempt to persuade Twitter to deny this separatist leader its platform has not been taken seriously,” he said.

According to him, the federal government has no apology to offer to those unhappy with the suspension of Twitter operations in the country.

He said a country must exist in peace before people can exercise freedom of speech and fight for a source of income.

The minister also confirmed that Twitter had written to seek dialogue on issues leading to the indefinite suspension of its operations.

“I can confirm that Twitter has written to the federal government that it is ready to speak.

“As we have always maintained, the door is not locked and we are open-minded but Twitter needs to work on it,” he said.

The minister reiterated the government’s position that it will not tolerate any platform that is used to destabilize the country.

Mohammed said that among other conditions for Twitter to resume operations in Nigeria, there must be an agreement on what content it could post.

He said Twitter and other platforms must also register as a Nigerian company, obtain a license from the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and be guided by the licensing rules as well as pay taxes.

According to him, the regulation of social media platforms is becoming a global practice.

He said most countries were just starting to realize that the platforms were getting more powerful than even the government and needed to be regulated.

“Singapore, Algeria, Pakistan, Turkey regulate social media, Australia has.

“Even the EU, which does not have specific social media laws, made recommendations in a white paper,” he added.

The minister said the UK has launched a new law, which would fine social media companies up to £ 18million (around N10.8 billion) if they fail to clear online abuse.

He said Google was fined euros (around 110 billion naira) on June 7 by the French competition regulator for abusing its dominance in France’s online advertising market.

In addition, Pakistan approved a new set of rules to regulate social media.

By the rules, according to the minister, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even TikTok must register and open offices in Pakistan.

He said that according to Turkey’s new online streaming rule, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have obtained licenses from that country’s broadcasting authority.

Mohammed said regulating social media was not synonymous with stifling press freedom.
“We must not confuse freedom of the press and irresponsibility.

“How can you stay in your country and allow your own platform to be used to spread war to another country?”

“The suspension of Twitter is intended to ensure that no particular platform is used to provoke war in Nigeria.

“Second, to make sure that whoever makes money in Nigeria should be forced to pay taxes.

“Our appeal to Nigerians is that they need to understand where we are from.

“We have no intention of stifling people’s freedom or cutting off anyone’s source of livelihood.

“There has to be a country without war before we can talk about freedom and a source of life,” he said.

On June 4, the federal government indefinitely suspended the operations of the microblogging and social networking service in Nigeria.

United States reiterates condemnation of Twitter suspension

Meanwhile, the United States has renewed its condemnation of Nigeria for suspending Twitter operations in the country, a move which senior U.S. officials say is a sign of restriction of political space in Nigeria.

A report on the Voice of America (VOA) website yesterday quoted Assistant Under Secretary of State for African Affairs Akunna Cook as saying in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council that “ the suspension of Twitter was of great concern and remains a source of concern. “

Cook, a daughter of Nigerian immigrants, said the country can “play a constructive role” in West Africa, but that “signs of closing political space” and signs of restricting freedom are expression are disturbing.

Cook of the Nigerian government also called China a “strategic competitor” on the continent, while urging Beijing to have “greater transparency” in granting loans to African countries.

“Transparency limits corruption. China has become a big lender to African countries and many large Chinese borrowers are struggling with debt sustainability, ”Cook said.

The senior State Department official responsible for African affairs also said there would be “stronger engagements” between the United States and Africa under the administration of President Joe Biden, but did not elaborate. whether there would be a US-Africa summit in 2022, the same year as a planned Russia-Africa summit.


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