The Nigerian government appears to be moving very fast to have absolute control of the internet after it suspended Twitter indefinitely in the country.
The government has reportedly reached out to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to discuss plans to build an internet firewall.
The government officials present at the meeting include Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President, and Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, according to a report by Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ).
The internet firewall is a way of having a separate network for the Nigerian Internet that will give the government control over social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This is similar to the internet filtering system China operates, called the Great Firewall.
According to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “the Great Firewall, is the centre of the government’s online censorship and surveillance effort. Its methods include bandwidth throttling, keyword filtering, and blocking access to certain websites.”
If this plan comes to fruition, it will give the Nigerian government the ability to block VPN, which many Nigerians are using to access Twitter.
Interestingly, the Nigerian government has been looking for every opportunity to regulate the social media space.
FIJ says that: “Towards the end of 2015, the Frivolous Petition Bill targeting online and print media as well as regulating social media posts was introduced into the Senate just 10 months after Buhari’s ascent to power.
“In 2019, lawmakers introduced two bills: the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill and the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and other Related Offences bill, prompting a public outcry that meant they were not passed into law.”