How #Twitterban, Koo emergence allow Nigerians to explore tech space

Irked by the wanton destruction, killing and attacks on security operatives in the southeast and south-south regions of the country, the president, a former military Head of State and self-styled democrat had threatened to treat some aggressive secessionists “in the language they understand.”

Buhari’s statement came amid mounting security threats across the country climaxed by the abduction of some students in both government colleges and university in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara by bandits.

Controversial as it was widely understood, the statement was trailed by a whirlpool of reactions, with a number of social media users on Twitter calling on Jack Dorsey, the CEO and founder of the platform to give the “Buhari a Donald Trump treatment.” 

Trump, a former US president, was suspended by Twitter after his tweet led to the attack on the Capitol amid grand delusions to overturn the victory of his predecessor Joe Biden in the November 3, 2020 election.

NBC sanction

In a subsequent move, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) ordered all the broadcast media in the country to suspend the use of Twitter “with immediate effect.”

This was contained in a statement issued by its former director general, Armstrong Idachaba, on Monday, July 7.

Garba Shehu, a presidential aide, in a statement said “the removal of President Buhari’s tweet was disappointing.” He also claimed Twitter was not banned but temporarily suspended, citing that it is a place where “misinformation” trends, among other reasons.

However, in a fierce defiance, Nigerians have continued to be using Twitter albeit with Virtual Private Network (VPN), a connection that extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks.

Enters Koo app

One of the reasons Twitter was banned — or “temporarily suspended” was because as the Minister of Communication and Culture, Lai Mohammed said, it wascapable of undermining the corporate existence of Nigeria.”

In a bid to cut down the intimidating influence of Twitter, Koo, an Indian micro-blogging app, was endorsed by the Nigerian presidency, with President Buhari leading the cart of his followers to the app.

Koo app itself is a product of revolt. It is borne out of Indian government’s desire to sumerge Twitter in the populous country after the platform was suspended in what appears to be a long deadlock emerging from clash of interest.

       Screenshot of president Buhari’s profile on Koo. Credit: Koo app
           Official account of the Nigerian government on Koo. Credit Koo app.

The Nigerian government’s endorsement of Koo, without any iota of doubt, represents a significant push in the app’s journey to position itself as a genuine challenger to Twitter in the country.

This is because hundreds of Nigerians, mostly Buhari’s supporters, have joined the Koo app in solidarity with the presidency’s position on the Twitter ban.

On the other side of the trenches, social media influencers whose work were affected by the ban have refused to join the platform, describing it as an attempt to gag “free speech” and strengthen the government’s vocal desire to bring social media under control.

Bashir Ahmad, media aide to the president on social media joins Koo. Credit: Koo app.

 Koo a blessing in disguise? 

Although Koo may find it difficult to outmuscle Twitter on the Nigerian internet space, its presence has provided the country’s social media users with a viable alternative of communication and expression of free speech.

Twitter, over the time, has been the biggest platform that provides a voice for Nigerians who often checkmate the excess of the government.

With over 40 million active users, the platform not only provides jobs for Nigerians as social media managers and influencers, but also generates revenue into the purse of the government.

According to netblocks, a data-driven web application that allows people to rapidly evaluate the economic cost of Internet outages, Nigeria has been losing money daily over Twitter ban.

Between June 5 and 25 the government suspended Twitter operations, the country, according to netblock, has lost over $150m (approximately N54 billion). 

Data showing Nigeria’s loss since Twitter was banned by the government. Credit: Netblocks.

Economically, this means if Nigeria can have a concentrated number of active social media users on Koo, more revenue will be generated into the country’s purse..

Of the technological benefits, Twitter ban and the presence of Koo has revitalised Nigeria’s possibility of developing and exploring home-grown social media platforms that are basically Nigerian and capable of challenging the monopoly and hegemony of US-owned social media tech giants.

In India, Koo came in as a tool of revolt. It was initially fashioned in a user-friendly mode with an  interactive interface to “deal with Twitter excess.” Now, it is a strong competitor, technically performing the same role. By the time the Indian government removes the ban on Twitter, its influence may have whittled down.

India is the second most populous country in the world after China; Nigeria is the most populous in Africa. So there is a striking similarity between the two nations in terms of numerical strength. If Nigeria can use the avenue of the Twitter ban to create a home-grown alternative, it is going to be a step in the right direction for the country in terms of technological advancement.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Legit.ng to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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