Innovation Technology

Twitter ban: Nigerian govt. moves to Indian app, Koo

The Federal Government of Nigeria is consolidating on its actions against the microblogging site, Twitter, by moving its social media engagements to the Indian app, Koo. TechTrackAfrica's check on the platform, which shares similarities with Twitter, revealed that top government officials, including President Mohammadu Buhari, have opened accounts and have started sharing government information on Koo, which is still less popular among Nigerians.

President Buhari ‘@muhammaubuhari’, who had 4.1 million followers on Twitter before it was banned has so far garnered 16,746 followers on Koo at the time of filing this report. In July last year, President Buhari was rated as the most followed Sub-saharan African leader on Twitter with 3.1 million followers then, by Burson Cohn and Wolfe (BCW), a global communications agency.

Aside from President Buhari, the government is firmly establishing its presence on the platform with the official handle ‘@nigeriagov’ with the name ‘Government of Nigeria’, which now enjoys 38,138 followership on the new app. This is in contrast with the 1.4 million followers that the same handle had on Twitter.

Also actively engaging Nigerians on the platform is the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who announced the Twitter ban. The Minister with the handle ‘@laimohammed’ is, however, engaging very few people compared to Twitter where he had hundreds of thousands of followers. The Minister currently has 6,781 followers on the new app.

The Personal Assistant to the Nigeria President on Digital and New Media, Bashir Ahmad, who had been the most active voice of the Presidency on Twitter, had also opened a Koo account with 22,937 followers.

The platform has also authenticated the accounts of the President, his Personal Assistant, as well as the Government handle with a yellow mark, showing that they have been verified as original and not fake accounts. This is similar to the blue tick on Twitter which authenticates an account. However, the account of the Minister of Information and Culture has not been verified, which means that it may be fake.

Recall that the Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had recently denounced such an account opened in his name on the same platform. Many of such fake accounts also exist on Twitter, but the real accounts are authenticated through the ‘verified’ blue tick.

While there is no official data of the number of Nigerians currently on the platform, a check on profiles of Nigerians through the followers of the President and the Government handle shows that the app is currently dominated by Nigerians of Northern extraction.

As the ban on Twitter enters the second week, many Nigerians have continued to use the platform through the back door of a virtual private network (VPN), which allows them to bypass the blockage by telecom operators. Cybersecurity experts have, however, warned that the use of VPNs, especially the free ones poses security threats to the users.

While there is no sign of when the government would lift the ban, which it earlier described as ‘temporary’ the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed on Tuesday disclosed that Twitter had officially written to the government for discussions. The government had also earlier given conditions upon which the ban could be lifted, saying that all social media platforms that want to operate in the country must be registered as a business in the country.

 

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