The social media giant has been trapped in a battle with the Indian government for months over free speech and other issues, and grapples with restrictive new rules imposed by New Delhi. If that weren’t enough, even more dramatic events are unfolding thousands of kilometers along the west coast of Africa.
Nigeria last week “Definitely” blocked Twitter ( after the company deleted a message from President Muhammadu Buhari who threatened a brutal crackdown on unrest in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigerian government has also ordered federal prosecutors to arrest users of the app. )
The restrictions in India and the ban in Nigeria are troublesome for Twitter. Although the company does not break down user data for these countries, an independent study suggests India is among its top five markets. Asia’s third-largest economy – with 700 million internet users and many more to come online – is Twitter’s top growth market as well. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of Nigeria’s 200 million people have Twitter accounts, according to NOI Polls.
Now that Nigeria has shown it is not afraid to ban Twitter, some fear India may be next if the standoff between New Delhi and the company cannot be resolved.
“You might see more calls to ban Twitter in India if it continues to challenge the government,” Pahwa told CNN Business.
The Silicon Valley Company’s Response to Political Pressure in these countries will decide its course in the rapidly growing economies that are essential to any strategy of global expansion. Successfully navigating the tensions could give other U.S. tech companies a roadmap for dealing with governments that have increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
The new challenges abroad coincide with the tensions at home, where Washington has shown its willingness to tame America’s tech giants. And that doesn’t help former US President Donald Trump – who is currently banned from Twitter and Facebook ( – urged other countries to follow Nigeria’s example. )
Months of tension led to Twitter problems in Nigeria and India.
Nigerians felt snubbed by Twitter when the company decided earlier this year to set up its first African base in Ghana, instead of the continent’s largest economy.
Tensions escalated this month when Twitter deleted Buhari’s post for violating its abusive behavior policies.
The country countered Twitter’s move by banning the platform to allow the use of “Activities likely to undermine the existence of Nigerian businesses,” according to the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture. In an interview with AFP news agency, the ministry said it would reinstate Twitter if it “registers as a business in Nigeria.”
“Nigeria’s ban is sure to get many other emerging economies to think about how to grab the attention of platforms as well,” Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative, which works on inclusion and digital rights in Africa. He added that if Twitter meets Nigeria’s new registration requirements, “then those countries could try the same approach in order to get tax revenue.”
Threats to freedom of expression in India
In India, tensions flared in February as protesters used Twitter to voice their views against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new agricultural laws. the The company clashed with the government over an order to delete accounts at the request of the Ministry of Informatics, ultimately complying in part but refusing to take action against journalists, activists or civilians. politicians.
In May, police showed up at Twitter’s office in New Delhi after the company decided to tag a tweet from a spokesperson for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party. as “manipulated media”. Police said the visit was “part of a routine process” to get Twitter to cooperate with its investigation. The social media company called the move a “bullying tactic” and said it was “concerned” about the safety of its employees in the country.
India’s new rules for social media have only intensified the cold. They include requests that companies create special roles in India to keep them in compliance with local laws, and for companies stay in touch with law enforcement 24/7. There are also requirements for the services to remove certain types of content, including posts showing “full or partial nudity”.
Twitter said it was concerned about “the essentials of the new IT rules” and the “potential threat to free speech” in the country. But Modi’s government said the company was trying to “undermine the Indian legal system” by “deliberately defying” the rules.
“Twitter must stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land,” the government said in a statement in May. “Law-making and policy-making is the sovereign’s sole prerogative and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no [place] by dictating what… the legal framework of India’s policy should be. “
For many in India, the debate around the use of social media in the country is not so much about freedom of expression as it is about about a foreign company challenging the power of the Indian government, Pahwa told CNN Business. He added that the the ban in Nigeria “adds more fuel to this fire.” “
Hire locally, grow locally
To survive and thrive in these emerging economies, companies like Twitter may need to invest more in local teams and understand local laws, experts said.
And government pressure may already weaken Twitter’s resolve.
After expressing reservations about the new social media rules last month, the company said it remains “deeply committed” to India, which is among its largest markets in the world.
“We have assured the Indian government that Twitter is making every effort to comply with the new guidelines, and a snapshot of our progress has been duly shared,” the company said in a statement this week. “We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian government. “
For Vivan Sharan, partner of Delhi-based technology policy consultancy Koan Advisory Group, Nigeria’s shutdown and debate in India could be a “wake-up call” for Western social media companies to “expand” local capacity to moderate content and delegate decision-making to country offices.
“This is of course a big challenge for new era companies that are used to a global scale and presence, without significant investments on the ground,” he said.
“Most of the social media majors spend most of their operational bandwidth in developed markets. This paradigm is untenable and is now starting to change ”, he added. “Companies that don’t double their localization in emerging markets can find themselves on the wrong side of the splinternet. “
– Stephanie Busari in Lagos contributed to this report.