Arguing that freedom of expression was vital to democracy, the State Department urged Nigeria to reverse its suspension of Twitter, nearly a week after the African country banned the US-based platform for censoring its president.
“The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Nigerian government and subsequent threats to arrest and prosecute Nigerians who use Twitter,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday, adding that “unduly restricting” people’s right to “report, gather, and disseminate opinions and information has no place in a democracy.”
The United States condemns the ongoing suspension of Twitter by the Government of Nigeria. We call on the government to respect freedom of expression by reversing this suspension. https://t.co/bOkcgc2kDz
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) June 10, 2021
It was the first official reaction from the Biden administration on the issue, and comes almost a week after the government in Abuja announced a suspension of Twitter in Nigeria and a push to have all social platforms licensed through the National Broadcasting Commission, same as the legacy media.
Price’s statement also echoed Twitter’s own, issued on June 5, calling access to their platform “an essential human right in modern society.”
The current standoff began when Twitter invoked its guidelines against tweets that “glorified violence” or threatened harm to a known individual or group – to take down a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Claiming that the US supports Nigeria “as it works towards unity, peace, and prosperity,” Price argued on Thursday that “freedom of expression and access to information both online and offline are foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies.”
His comments come two days after Trump praised Nigeria’s actions, arguing that “more countries should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech.”