After seven months of being banned, the Nigerian government has finally restored its people's access to Twitter on Thursday. The social media company reportedly agreed to the demands made by the government to lift the months-long ban.
Twitter was blocked in Nigeria after the company deleted a tweet posted by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who threatened to violently crackdown on separatist groups. In his deleted tweet, Buhari said that he would treat those who are "misbehaving" in ways that they are sure to understand, seemingly a reference to the deadly Nigerian civil war.
Twitter removed the post in June. The website was then blocked shortly after. Users in the country were only able to access the website and its app through a virtual private network. The Nigerian government has denied that the removal of the president's tweet was the reason for the ban. Officials claimed that they blocked Twitter because it was being used for "subversive purposes" by anti-government groups.
Under their new agreement, Twitter will be establishing a new office within the country. The company will also be appointing a representative and vowed to "act with a respectful acknowledgment of Nigerian laws, culture, and history."
Nigerian lawmakers have sponsored several bills in recent years that, if approved, would control how social media companies can operate within the country. Officials argued that such laws are necessary to protect national security. So far, none of the proposals have been approved by the Senate.
Rights groups have argued that some of the proposals made by lawmakers are in violation of international rules safeguarding freedom of expression. Amnesty International claimed that Nigeria's move to block Twitter was already a violation of its people's basic freedoms, such as their freedom of expression.
Following the ban, several organizations filed lawsuits against the Nigerian government and the telecommunications companies that worked to enforce the suspension.
Twitter is one of the most popular social media networks in Nigeria, with roughly three million members. The app trails behind WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram in terms of popularity. The ban has been estimated to have cost the Nigerian government more than $1.4 billion, as many citizens use the platform to promote their businesses.
The country's elite also frequently use the platform. In 2020, the app was used to plan the country's largest anti-government revolt in decades, led mostly by young people against police brutality.
Twitter published a post in response to the lifting of the ban, stating that it was "pleased" that its service had been restored. The company said that it would continue to serve public conversations in Nigeria, including those for commerce, cultural engagement, and civic discussions.