Nigeria: Twitter Spreading Misinformation, Fake News -Presidency

The Presidency has described widespread translation of the recent suspension of the social media platform, Twitter’s operation in Nigeria as misleading, saying it has nothing to do with the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweets.

The federal government, on Friday, announced a temporary suspension of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria, amidst controversy trailing the social media platform’s pulling down part of President Buhari’s tweets, which addressed the administration’s response to recent violent activities linked to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in the Southeast region of the country.

In a statement issued by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the Presidency said government’s action was rather in response to the micro-messaging platform’s long-observed misdemeanours, including misinformation and spread of fake new, which it said had led to violent ends.

“The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences. All the while, the company has escaped accountability.

“Nevertheless, the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing. The censoring seemed based on a misunderstanding of the challenges Nigeria faces today.

“The President in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA in 2019 said “the world was shocked and startled by the massacre in New Zealand by a lone gunman taking the lives of 50 worshippers.

“This and similar crimes which have been fueled by social media networks risk seeping into the fabric of an emerging digital culture.

“Major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities. They cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other, leading to loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart.

“President Buhari has therefore been warning against social media’s disruptive and divisive influences and the government’s action is not a knee-jerk reaction to Twitter’s preposterous deletion of his tweet which should have been read in full”, the statement said.

Reacting to the narrative that President Buhari’s comments in the deleted tweets were genocidal in nature or a threat to citizens, the Presidency said it was rather a statement of fact about situations witnessed during the Nigerian civil war, adding that it was was rather an assurance that rights of Nigerians would be preserved.

It, however, noted that government would not fold its arms when the activities of IPOB, which it insists is a proscribed terror organisation, continue to put pressure on the peace and security of the country, a situation it said Twitter had refused to take notice of.

“The tweet was not a threat, but a statement of fact.

“A terrorist organisation (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.

“When the President said that they will be treated ‘in a language they understand’, he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response world over.

“This is not promotion of hate, but a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm. The government cannot be expected to capitulate to terrorists.

“IPOB is proscribed under Nigerian law. Its members murder innocent Nigerians. They kill policemen and set government property on fire. Now, they have amassed a substantial stockpile of weapons and bombs across the country.

“Twitter does not seem to appreciate the national trauma of our country’s civil war. This government shall not allow a recurrence of that tragedy,” the statement said.

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