Security Brief: Extremism Week of June 7, 2021
Week of Monday, June 7, 2021 | Issue 37
Alex Karasick, Sophie Provins and Gabby Silberman, Extremism Team
Protests Transpire After Twitter Ban
Date: June 8, 2021
Parties involved: Nigeria, Twitter, SERAP
The event: Following the Nigerian Government’s decision to ban the use of Twitter across the nation on Friday, June 5, 2021, many Nigerians have launched a lawsuit to reverse the ban. At the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, a local rights group called the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), along with 176 Nigerians, filed a lawsuit in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. The group is requesting an interim injunction that will reintroduce Twitter to Nigeria and reverse the government’s ban.
This event is likely to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration, as the Twitter ban was introduced after the social media platform banned a series of his tweets for violating their abusive behavior policy. The move to ban Twitter has not been welcomed by many of the population, as demonstrated by the lawsuit, who may perceive the decision as vengeful rather than useful.
Many Nigerians conduct their business on Twitter, using it to advertise in hopes of reaching more clients. The threat of imprisonment may lead to some changing their business model, which may lead to a negative economic impact as the country transitions.
Nigeria is regarded as one of the biggest investors of technology in the AFRICOM region but was recently rejected as the location for the first Twitter headquarters when the organization chose Ghana instead. This decision may encourage other companies who were investing in Nigeria’s technological industry to choose other nations as a result of the negative effect that this case has had on its international reputation. This is likely to lead to a negative effect on Nigeria’s economy.
Terrorist and extremist groups in the region are highly likely to take advantage of the discontent shown by the Nigerian population. Boko Haram is well known for exploiting governmental grievances such as this and therefore is highly likely to use this action to radicalize those struggling as a result of the decision and influence individuals to join their cause.
In the United States (US), former President Trump has praised Nigerian President Buhari’s decision, following his own ban from the site for the next two years. However, the current US administration under President Biden has condemned the ban and requested that the Nigerian government reverse the decision to reinforce the idea of free speech. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which advocates for free speech for citizens across the globe, is likely to impact worldwide perceptions of this event. This could lead to conflict in the US between former President Trump supporters and current President Biden supporters within the US.
It is highly likely there will be protests against the ban across Nigeria. It is highly probable that it could lead to violence, which may cause further instability within the country.
Date: June 12, 2021
Parties involved: Nigerian Police, Nigerian protestors
The event: Nigerian protestors took to the streets to mark Democracy Day, a national holiday signifying over twenty years of civilian rule while holding signs and chanting “Bahari must go.” The police responded to the protests by firing tear gas, arresting demonstrators, and confiscating and destroying their mobile phones. The demonstrations throughout Nigeria come as President Buhari’s Administration banned Twitter.
These protests across Nigeria can likely lead to further protests in the next coming days and weeks and stir up more sentiment against President Buhari, which can likely cause further instability within the country.
The EndSARS protests in 2020 were successful in their aims, which is likely to have emboldened the current protesters and enforced the belief that they will be successful in restoring Twitter to Nigeria. The protests were arguing for the end of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which was successfully disbanded in October 2020.
Nigerian President Buhari may feel emboldened and restrict access to other social media platforms in the future. This would likely lead to further protests and violence across Nigeria from demonstrators. A restriction of social media would also allow President Buhari to crackdown on protesters and use a degree of force that may not otherwise be tolerated by the general public. This is because individuals are unable to capture and share images globally with the use of social media, leading to a slowed speed in the spread of information across Nigeria.
Extremist groups are highly likely to organize other attacks in order to demonstrate the further weaknesses of the Buhari Administration. For example, Boko Haram is highly likely to orchestrate kidnappings, likely for ransom, in order to further expose the weaknesses of the government and attract further protests and violence. Extremist groups are also likely to organize recruitment efforts and campaigns that expose the weaknesses of Buhari’s Administration in order to make themselves appear as a viable alternative and attract new recruits.
The severity of the security forces response might further embolden seeking outside means of affecting change, either potentially supporting radicalization towards existing groups, or more likely supporting radicalization into new, otherwise unaffiliated terrorist groups.
 Online Protestors, Don’t get tired!!!, Twitter, June 12, 2021, https://twitter.com/vhic_tore/status/1403653916496207878?s=21
 Nigerians launch legal action against government’s Twitter ban, Al Jazeera, June 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/8/nigerians-launch-legal-action-against-governments-twitter-ban
 Nigerian police fire teargas to break up protests over rising insecurity, Reuters, June 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/nigerian-police-fire-tear-gas-detain-several-protesters-witnesses-2021-06-12/