Nigeria’s Twitter ban and what it means for democracy | by Ashoka | Changer | July 2021

“Gbenga Sesan on building civil power and defending digital rights and inclusion across the African continent”

NoOn June 4, igeria introduced an unlimited Twitter ban nationwide and threatened to “prosecute criminals” after Twitter deleted a violent tweet from Nigerian President Buhari. Some believe this latest move could be a precursor to further democratic crackdowns and internet shutdowns – a practice practiced in 29 countries last year to silence protests, influence elections, or hide human rights abuses.

As the conflict between nation states and “cloud nations” intensifies, ordinary citizens emerge to defend democratic norms. Ashoka’s Julia Kloiber spoke to Ashoka Fellow ‘Gbenga Sesan, founder of Paradigm HQ, about building civil power and defending digital rights and inclusion across the African continent. You can watch the full interview here. Here are a few highlights:

Some context to the Twitter ban

Before ‘Gbenga delves into the impact of the ban on democracy in Nigeria,’ Gbenga provides context on the events that led to it. It turns out that the deletion of President Buhari’s tweet was simply the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

We also spoke to ‘Gbenga last November about Nigeria’s #EndSars protests against police brutality and their relationship with digital rights. You can find out more about this in this Forbes interview.

Center citizen voices to protect democracy

Even if many people refer to this conversation as a topic between Twitter and Nigeria – between “cloud nations” and “nation states” – ‘Gbenga urges us to realize that the real goal here is not Twitter, but citizen voices.

In addition, ‘Gbenga wrote an insightful article on the important role of the “third party” citizens and the “third sector” civic organizations.

A citizen awakening is underway

‘Gbenga hopes that this moment in Nigeria’s history will spark a mass awakening of citizens.

Not only has the ban piqued people’s curiosity about Twitter, it has led thousands to mobilize and take action to protect freedom of expression and democracy.

Decentralized platforms make everyone powerful

‘Gbenga was an engineering student in the mid-1990s when the internet was just beginning to go mainstream. He reminds us that it was originally designed to run on popular protocols – like the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, HTTP – and not become the walled gardens we’ve become accustomed to from platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. It is this centralization of power that makes it much more difficult to deal with problems like “fake news” and “hate speech”. His call to action: “re-decentralize” to empower us all to solve problems as they arise.

We ended hopefully with three important recommendations from ‘Gbenga to protect the Internet as a public good. Engineers: Don’t Be Selfish! Make politics mainstream like engineering in tech. And global companies: Hire a variety of local experts to really go global.

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