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News around Africa - June 7, 2021

Is Freedom of Speech in Nigeria at Risk?

Following the ban of Twitter in Nigeria last Friday, the 4th of June 2021, several Nigerians are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to access the banned social media platform. A report by FIJ spotlights the Nigerian government’s talks with the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to build an internet firewall. 

The meeting had Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President, and Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture.

With an internet firewall, the Nigerian government will be able to monitor and intercept internet traffic originating from the country, giving it control over virtually every conversation on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This will usher in what has been described as the “Nigerian Internet” which is similar to what China operates known as the Great Firewall.

The Great Firewall is built on the Deep Packet Inspection technology, an advanced method of monitoring network traffic which according to CFR includes bandwidth throttling, keyword filtering and blocking access to certain websites. This is the kind of control the Nigerian government wants to gain by establishing the Nigerian Internet. 

The Implication

Once the Nigerian Internet is created, VPN applications will no be able to bypass government internet restrictions, but this should be the least of worries for Nigerians. The freedom of speech, which is one of the basic rights of citizens in a democracy, will come under question as the Nigerian government moves to exert a form of control only common in authoritarian states.  It appears the government agitation for control over social media and the internet which started in the wake of the #endSARS protest in Nigeria is reaching a new high. 


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