Nigerians Have Right To Exercise Freedom Of Expression And To Access Information – Sweden



Sweden has reacted to the indefinite suspension of Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In a brief communique shared on Twitter, the European country urged the Buhari-led government to respect ‘freedom of expression’ and the rights of the citizens.

According to the tweet, Nigerians have a constitutional right to exercise their freedom of expression and a right to access information, a right that must be respected.

Sweden further noted that safeguarding free, independent media and civic spaces for democratic voices is an important part of its drive for democracy.

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The Federal Government of Nigeria on Friday placed a ban on Twitter, following the deleting of a tweet put out by President Buhari.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed explained that Nigerians were using Twitter to perpetuate activities inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.

According to the statement, the Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.

It is not yet clear how the suspension will work but the Twitter ban stirred various reactions with many calling it unconstitutional and asking the government to rescind its decision.

Twitter’s ‘Problematic’ Trump Ban Troubles Europe

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP


Twitter’s decision to impose a permanent ban on US President Donald Trump’s account has sparked some consternation in Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it “problematic”.

The move, prompted by fears of “further incitement of violence” after last week’s attack on the US Capitol building that was partly blamed on the US president, reignited debate over regulation of social media.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have all now issued their own bans, triggering a flood of reactions from around the world.

European commissioner Thierry Breton, who has introduced two EU proposals that would place more restraints on digital giants, saw Twitter’s decision as a total break from the past, calling it “the 9/11 moment of social media” in an op-ed published by Politico.

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US internet giants have often been accused of holding too much power over social media, and many governments have called for them to face more regulation.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said she “considers it problematic that the accounts of the US president have been permanently blocked”.

He added: “It is possible to intervene in the freedom of expression, but in accordance with limits defined by the legislator, and not through a decision by company management.”

– ‘Digital oligarchy’ –
French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire agreed, telling state-run France Inter radio: “The regulation of digital giants cannot be done by the digital oligarchy itself.”

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny also denounced — on Twitter — what he branded “an unacceptable act of censorship” based on “emotion and personal political preferences”.

Digital law specialist Florence G’sell, who called Twitter’s decision an “earthquake”, detailed a three-part plan on the part of the European Union that she said “could be of great interest to the Americans”.

The EU intends to set up a procedure for implementing moderation decisions, a way to contest these decisions and the possibility of resolving disputes through a third party, she told AFP, stressing that legislation is needed on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I think the platforms are ready to cooperate. But we mustn’t be naive: there are enormous financial stakes. They have greatly profited from the polarisation.”

US social media have regularly cited Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act when they claim to simply host accounts but not bear responsibility for the content.

Transnational problem –
“The dogma anchored in section 230 — the U.S. legislation that provides social media companies with immunity from civil liability for content posted by their users — has collapsed,” Breton wrote.

“It is a monument that has collapsed in the information space,” he added in remarks to journalists Monday in French.

“For the first time in the history of social media, this act acknowledges by those who are the main actors, that they have an editorial responsibility,” he said.

Digital lawyer Christiane Feral-Schuh noted, for her part: “In the United States, the First Amendment protects American citizens against any infringement of their freedom of expression, but the Supreme Court also considered that private actors could moderate their discussion spaces as they wish.”

Nevertheless, what the platforms are doing is tantamount to “censorship couched in (their) general conditions”, she told AFP.

She warned that laws “will not be enough to resolve the problem,” which she called “transnational”, and stressed the need for due process when the platforms suspend accounts, remove posts and so on. That is, citizens should be able to challenge them in court.

It remains to be seen what the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden will do after a highly charged Senate hearing last November of the Facebook and Twitter founders over the now famous “Section 230”.

Kate Ruane, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said “it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions.”


Trump Twitter Ban Problematic, Says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel  PHOTO: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP


German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes that the decision by social media giants to permanently suspend Donald Trump’s accounts is problematic because freedom of opinion should not be determined by such online platform bosses, her spokesman said Monday.

“The fundamental right to freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of elementary importance, and this fundamental right can be interfered with, but through the law and within the framework defined by the legislature, not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms,” said Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

“From this point of view, the Chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the US president have been permanently blocked.”

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He said that lies or incitement to violence were also “very problematic”, but that the path to dealing with them should be for the state to draw up a legal regulatory framework.

Completely blocking out views by halting the account is a step too far, the spokesman said but added that he backed action taken by social media in recent months to flag false claims.

Merkel had said she was “furious and saddened” by the storming of the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters.

She had also accused Trump of stoking the unrest by refusing to concede election defeat to Joe Biden.

Twitter on Friday shut down Trump’s account to prevent another attack on the Capitol building.