Background of the study
The interrelated freedoms of communication, expression and association are at the heart of any free, democratic society based on the rule of law.Freedom of expression, the free flow of information, and freedom and pluralism of the media have internationally been acknowledged as human rights in the post-Second World War intergovernmental instruments: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966). In both the UDHR and the ICCPR, Article 19 makes this commitment. The 2011 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression is a strong statement of the importance of freedom of expression on the Internet. The Rapporteur emphasizes the need for clear rules, in contrast with the arbitrariness he observes today, which allows for increasing surveillance and monitoring of communications(Douwe Korff (2012) cited in UN retrieved (2021).
Restrictions and regulations must be in accordance with Council of Europe standards, and in particular the ECHR and the case law of the Strasbourg Court concerning the narrow set of restrictions on freedom of expression necessary in a democratic society. Also, any interference with the right to communicate, express views or assemble must be based on rules that are clear, specific and accessible.
It is no secret that the Internet and social media have grown in importance in political activities.Blogging, video-sharing, and tweeting were critical in 2011 political events in North Africa and the Middle East.They are important to human rights defenders everywhere. But the use of these new technologies to assert old freedoms has been met with repression by some governments. Government officials increasingly contact authors or websites to apply pressure for content to be removed, with threats of legal action, withdrawal of contracts or licences and outright bans even where companies are based in overseas jurisdictions.Governments also encourage their supporters to complain to hosting companies about user-generated content.
The most extreme methods of suppressing Internet communication have included simply cutting off all Internet access (Egypt, January 2011, and Syria at the time of writing), or even creating a completely state-controlled mini-Net (apparently planned by Iran). In other cases, such as Bahrain, governments have used their control over the local Internet structures to deliberately slow down connection speeds, in particular at newspaper offices, hotels and homes. Thailand, Burma, China and Iran have tried to manipulate online discussions through organized pro-state submissions. China has pressured search engines to distort search results. In several countries, bloggers and Internet activists have been subjected to threats and physical attacks. Following riots in several British cities, the government proposed taking powers to shut down social networking sites during future recurrences.
These and other examples represent several occasions when the government imposed network restrictions on its citizens’ access to social networking sites, such as the current Twitter ban announced by the government in Nigeria.These pressures raise human rights concerns, including whether companies should be required to resist pressure in order to protect the human rights of their users.
Statement of the problem
Blogging, video-sharing and tweeting are all crucial to the political events of modern democracies. They are important to human rights defenders everywhere. But the use of these new technologies to assert old freedoms has been met with repression by some governments. A recent study of 37 countries by Freedom House cites increasing website blocking and filtering, content manipulation, attacks on and imprisonment of bloggers, punishment of ordinary users, cyber attacks and coercion of website owners to remove content, in attempts by authoritarian states to reduce political opposition. It suggests that Internet restrictions around the globe are partly a response to the exploding popularity, and significant role in political and social activism, of sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
On June 4, the Nigerian government announced that it had suspended Twitter’s operations in the country. The announcement came two days after the social media company removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, in which Buhari issued a thinly veiled threat to the secessionist groups in the southeast “to treat them in the language they understand.” Since announcing the ban, the government has issued directives to federal prosecutors to arrest anyone still using Twitter — and ordered Internet providers to block access to the platform. Following some initial confusion about whether Twitter was accessible, it appears that most Nigerians are no longer able to access the platform as of mid-June.According to the Social-Media-Poll-Report (2020), more than 120 million Nigerians have access to the internet and social networking sites and nearly 40 million of them have a Twitter account — 20% of the population. The Twitter ban is only the latest example of governments using their control over the Internet and other digital technologies to surveil, censor and suppress their people.
Thus, the banning of Twitter in Nigeria invariably raises concerns among its citizens about the violation of their fundamental human rights to free expression, communication, and media association.As a result, this study seeks to investigate network restrictions on the Twitter platform as a bridge to Nigerian citizens’ fundamental rights (a case study of the Twitter ban).
Objective of the study
The main objective of the study is to examine network restriction to twitter platform: a bridge to fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens. Specifically the study seeks
- To examine the if social networking such as twitter promoted Nigerians’ freedom of communication and association.
- To investigate if government network restriction to twitter platform will affects citizens freedom of communication and association.
- To determine if the Nigeria Government Twitter ban is a bridge to the fundamental human rights of her citizens.
The research is guided by the following hypotheses
HO1: Government network restriction to twitter platform will not affects citizens freedom of communication and association.
H1: Government network restriction to twitter platform will affects citizens freedom of communication and association.
HO2: Nigeria Government Twitter ban is no bridge to the fundamental human rights of her citizens
H1: Nigeria Government Twitter ban is a bridge to the fundamental human rights of her citizens.
Significance of the study
The findings from this study will be relevant to all the arms of the government and to the citizens of Nigeria. Theoretically and empirically, the study will enlighten the arms of the government, especially the judiciary, on the need to re-assess the current restriction/ban on the Twitter platform, having in mind that internet freedom is important. As a result, all restrictions must be based on clear, specific, and easily accessible statute law.Those regulatory authorities applying the laws restricting freedom of expression on social media must be entirely independent, accountable and with adequate safeguards in place to avoid arbitrariness. Furthermore, the study will contribute to the body of knowledge, serve as a reference material, and be extremely beneficial to students and researchers who may be interested in gathering or conducting studies related to the topic under study.
Scope of the study
The scope of this study borders on the network restriction to twitter platform: a bridge to fundamental human rights of Nigeria Citizens. The study is however limited to twitter users in Abuja.
Limitation of the study
The following factors poses to be a limitation during the course of this research
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
Definition of terms
Twitter: Twitter is an American micro-blogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.
Twitter Ban: this is the authoritative pause in the operation of twitter as mandated by the Federal government of Nigeria on June 5th 2021 until the owners of the social network meet the newly established requirement given to them by the government of Nigeria.
Network restriction: A restricted network is where NAP sends a computer that needs remediation services or to block access to the private network until remediation can take place.
Human Right: Human rights are moral principles or norms for certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected in municipal and international law.
CNN (2021) Nigeria bans Twitter after company deletes President Buhari’s tweet”. . Retrieved 5 June 2021.
Douwe Korff (2012) Social Media And Human Rights; Issue Discussion Paper, CommDH (2012)8 Original version retrieved from https://rm.coe.int/16806da579_2021
Social-Media-Poll-Report (2020) 2020 Global Social Media Market Survey report retrieved from google search.
Washington Post. (2021) “Nigeria suspends Twitter after the social media platform freezes president’s account”. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 5 June 2021.