By Lucas Robinson-
The Nigerian government has joined its India-made rival Koo. Shortly after the ban, Koo had announced that it was available in Nigeria and was working to add local languages on its platform.
India’s homegrown microblogging website Koo has got a new user who has stopped using Twitter – the Nigerian government. Koo CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna posted on Twitter a welcome message along with a screenshot of the Nigerian government’s account on Koo.
Koo, owned by Bombinate Technologies, has long been touted as India’s alternative to Jack Dorsey’s Twitter, a foreign company that’s increasingly getting into mini battles with governments around the world over information technology rules, especially privacy issues.
Koo co-founder and CEO Aprameya Radhakrishna in a post on Koo said, “The official handle of the government of Nigeria is now on Koo!”
Interestingly, he also shared the information on Twitter saying : ”A very warm welcome to the official handle of the Government of Nigeria ”
Nigeria’s decision to suspend Twitter in the country reportedly came as a result of the US-based social networking platform deleting a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for violating rules. 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”.
Dozens of Nigerians and a local rights group filed a lawsuit at a regional court seeking to lift the government’s ban on Twitter, describing the decision to suspend the hugely popular social media platform’s operations as an attempt to silence criticism of the government.
Authorities announced the ban on Friday, two days after Twitter removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional secessionists. The Nigerian government ordered all broadcasters on Friday to stop using twitter, describing it as unpatriotic.
On Friday after the government alleged that the micro-blogging site was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence” through the spreading of fake news that have “violent consequences”.
The government’s move prompted an immediate backlash among social media users and human rights activists, with #NigeriaTwitterBan and #KeepitOn trending on the platform as Nigerians used virtual private networks to access the site. The government has said those who continued to use Twitter would be prosecuted.
“The suspension of Twitter is aimed at intimidating and stopping Nigerians from using Twitter to assess government policies, expose corruption, and criticize acts of official impunity by the agents of the Federal Government,” the suit read, according to the group.
Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP’s deputy director, said the ban “negatively impacted millions of Nigerians who carry on their daily businesses and operational activities on Twitter,” calling it “final proof of shrinking civil space in Nigeria and the intention of government to stifle any dissenting voice”.
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.
A man looks at newspapers at a newsstand in Abuja, Nigeria June 5, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Afolabi Sotunde)
What does this mean for Koo?
The Nigerian government’s decision to join 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.
Twitter was not always complaint, and is 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”.