While Twitter holds India and Nigeria close to its heart as both countries are critical for its global growth plans, restrictions in India and ban in Nigeria are troublesome for the microblogging platform.
India is among its top five markets but Twitter has been ensnared in a battle after new rules. According to CNN, tensions between the Indian government and the social media platform flared up in February when protesters used the platform to voice their opinions against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new agriculture laws.
As such, the company clashed with the government over an order to take down accounts at the IT Ministry’s behest, ultimately complying in part but refusing to take action against journalists, activists or politicians. Then in May, the police showed up at Twitter’s office in New Delhi after the company to label a tweet from a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as “manipulated media”. As a rebuttal, the social media company called this “intimidation tactics” and raised concerns about the safety of its employees in the country.
Nigeria, last week, indefinitely blocked Twitter after the company deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s post that threatened a brutal clampdown on unrest in Africa’s most populous nation. But there is more to Nigeria. The people of this African nation felt snubbed by the platform when it decided to set up its first Africa base in Ghana, instead of the continent’s largest economy – Nigeria.
Even though almost 40 million Nigerians have a Twitter account, according to CNN, more than the entire population of Ghana – there are some geopolitical considerations that might have influenced Twitter’s decision. Ghana ranked 13 places higher than Nigeria in 2019 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. Moreover, the US-based company described Ghana as a champion for democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom and the Open Internet.
After the platform deleted Buhari’s tweet, according to Nigeria’s Ministry of Information and Culture, the country countered Twitter’s decision by banning it for allowing the use of “activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” The company said it will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.
Vivan Sharan, a partner at Delhi-based tech policy consulting firm Koan Advisory Group, told CNN that the Nigeria shutdown and the debate in India may be a wake-up call for western social media companies to grow local capacity to moderate content, and devolve decision making to country offices. “This is of course a tall order for new-age companies that are used to global scale and presence, without commensurately large investments on the ground.”
Sharan also said that most social media majors spend the largest share of their operational bandwidth on developed markets, but this paradigm is untenable and is now beginning to shift.