The U.S. has condemned Nigeria’s continuing ban of Twitter in the country, saying the action “has no place in a democracy.”
“Freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday in a statement calling for the African nation to reverse its Twitter suspension.
He said the U.S. “condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter. The United States is likewise concerned that the Nigerian National Broadcasting Commission ordered all television and radio broadcasters to cease using Twitter.”
The U.S. had joined the European Union, Britain, Ireland and Canada last weekend in criticizing the Nigerian action. The Abuja government indefinitely banned Twitter after the U.S. social media company deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari's account for violating its rules.
Tweet about unrest
Buhari’s tweet referred to the country's civil war four decades ago in a warning about recent unrest, referring to “those misbehaving" in violence in the southeastern part of the country. Officials there blame the prohibited separatist group IPOB for attacks on police and election offices.
"Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand," the president had posted on Twitter.
Buhari’s office denied the Twitter suspension was a response to the removal of that 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," presidency spokesperson Garba Shehu said in a statement.
Shehu said the removal of Buhari's tweet was "disappointing" and that "major tech companies must be alive to their responsibilities."
Twitter said it was working to restore the social media network in Nigeria, but government officials warned they would prosecute violators.