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Nigerian govt joins India’s Koo after banning Twitter, what does it mean for Koo

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Abuja: Less than a week after imposing an indefinite ban on American microblogging site Twitter, the Nigerian government joined India-made rival Koo app. Shortly after the ban, Koo had announced that it was available in Nigeria and that it was working to add local languages on its platform.

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Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government said Twitter has made an approach for dialogue in a bid to resolve the issues that led to its suspension in the West African country.

Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed said he got a message from the micro-blogging platform on Wednesday morning, seeking a dialogue with the government. “They (Twitter) are now ready to hold senior-level discussions with us,” he told reporters in Abuja.

The minister, however, pointed out that what is more important to the Nigerian government is “the sovereignty of Nigeria.” It is insisting on the official registration of Twitter and other social media platforms.

“The cardinal thing is … that Twitter must be licensed in Nigeria and Twitter must stop using its platform for activities that are inimical to the growth of Nigeria or to its corporate existence,” Mohammed further said.

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Why Nigeria banned Twitter?

Nigerian government suspended Twitter in the country reportedly after the US-based social networking platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for violating company’s abusive behaviour policy. The Nigerian government had alleged that the microblogging site was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence” through the spreading of fake news that has “violent consequences”.

Country’s reaction to Twitter ban?

Even within Nigeria, there were sections that opposed the suspension of Twitter for violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech. In a statement, Twitter had said: “We are deeply concerned by the blocking of Twitter in Nigeria. Access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential human right in modern society. We will work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world.”

However, former US President Donald Trump, whose account has been suspended by Twitter, congratulated Nigeria for banning Twitter and said more countries should do so. “More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech — all voices should be heard. In the meantime, competitors will emerge and take hold. Who are they to dictate good and evil if they themselves are evil? Perhaps I should have done it while I was President. But Zuckerberg kept calling me and coming to the White House for dinner telling me how great I was. 2024?” TechCrunch quoted him as saying.

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What does this mean for India’s Koo?

The Nigerian government’s decision to join India made Koo after banning Twitter reinforces its position as an alternative platform to Twitter. Even in India, the progress of Koo came in the backdrop of the Indian government’s several disagreements with Twitter. In the last almost six months, the Centre asked Twitter to remove several tweets and suspend accounts it deemed unlawful. However, the microblogging site did not comply with these requests on all occasions leading to friction between the two sides.

According to the government, Twitter is also yet to comply with India’s new IT rules for digital media intermediaries. Last month, Koo announced a $30-million fundraise from marquee investors including Tiger Global at a time Indian authorities were turning the heat on Twitter. The fund-raise saw Koo’s valuation jump nearly five-fold to $100 million.

In a tweet announcing the Nigerian government’s arrival, Koo co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna wrote: “A very warm welcome to the official handle of the Government of Nigeria on @kooindia! Spreading wings beyond India now”.

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