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Twitter needs India and Nigeria to grow. It’s running into trouble in both

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The social media giant has been embroiled in a battle with the Indian government for months on freedom of expression and other issues, and struggles with the new restrictive rules pushed by New Delhi. If that weren’t enough, even more dramatic events unfold thousands of miles away along the west coast of Africa.
Nigeria last week blocked “indefinitely” Twitter (TWTR) after the company has deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari, who threatened a brutal reduction of riots in Africa’s most populous nation. The Nigerian government he also ordered federal prosecutors to stop users of the app.
Restrictions in India and the ban in Nigeria are problematic for Twitter. Although the company does not break down the data of users in these countries, independent research suggests that India is among the top five markets. The third Asian economy, with its economy 700 million internet users and many others who are not yet connected: it is also Twitter’s fastest growing market. In the meantime, almost 20% of those in Nigeria 200 million people have Twitter accounts, according to NOI polls.

Now that Nigeria has shown that it is not afraid to ban Twitter, some worry that India will be next if the conflict between New Delhi and the company cannot be resolved.

“If this continues, the envy of the Indian government in China will become the envy of Nigeria,” he tweeted Internet activist Nikhil Pahwa, el Founder of the Delhi-based technology website MediaNama.

“You may see more calls to ban Twitter in India, if it continues to challenge the government,” Pahwa told CNN Business.

The Silicon Valley-based company’s response to political pressure in these countries it will decide its trajectory in fast-growing economies that are fundamental to any strategy of global expansion. Successfully navigating the tensions could give other U.S. technology companies a roadmap for dealing with governments with increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

New challenges abroad coincide with tensions at home, where Washington has shown its will to curb the giants of American technology. And it doesn’t help former U.S. President Donald Trump, who is currently banned on Twitter i Facebook (FB) – has urged other countries to follow the example of Nigeria.

Nigeria “mining”

Months of tension have caused Twitter problems in both Nigeria and India.

Nigerians felt wasted by Twitter when the company decided earlier this year to set up your first Africa base in Ghana, rather than the continent’s largest economy.
Although almost 40 million Nigerians having a Twitter account – more than the entire population of Ghana – there are some geopolitical considerations that could have influenced Twitter’s decision. Ghana ranked 13th higher than Nigeria in 2019 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. When announcing the decision in April, Twitter described Ghana “as an advocate of democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom and the open Internet.”

Tensions rose this month when Twitter deleted Buhari’s post for violating his policies of abusive behavior.

A man reads a newspaper at a newsstand in Abuja, Nigeria.  REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde
The country opposed Twitter’s decision to ban the platform to allow its use “activities that may undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence,” according to the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture. In an interview with AFP news agency, the ministry said it would reset Twitter if it “registers as a company in Nigeria”.
Meanwhile, the company has said “It will work to restore access to all those in Nigeria who rely on Twitter to communicate and connect with the world.”

“Nigeria’s ban will certainly make many other emerging economies think about how they can also get the attention of platforms,” ​​Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative, which works on digital inclusion and human rights, told CNN Business. Africa. He added that if Twitter meets Nigeria’s new registration requirements, “then these countries could try the same approach to get tax revenue.”

Threats to free speech in India

In India, tensions flared in February when protesters used Twitter to express their views against Prime Minister Narendra The new laws on agriculture of Modi. He company it clashed with the government by an order to withdraw accounts at the behest of the IT ministry, complying in part but refusing to take action against journalists, activists or politicians.
In May, police showed up at the Twitter office in New Delhi after the company decided to tag a tweet from a Bharatiya Janata party spokesman in Modi. as “manipulated supports.” Police said the visit it was “part of a routine process” to get Twitter to cooperate with his research. The social media company caused the movement as “bullying tactics“and said he was” concerned “about the safety of his employees in the country.
From India new rules for social media they have only intensified the cold. They include that companies create special functions in India to keep them in compliance with local law and for companies keep in touch with law enforcement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also requirements for services to remove certain types of content, including posts that present “total or partial nudity.”

Twitter has said it has concerns about the “basics of the new IT rules” and the “potential threat to free speech” in the country. But the Modi government says the company is trying to “undermine India’s legal system” by its “deliberate challenge” to the rules.

“Twitter must stop beating and respect the laws of the country,” the government said in a statement in May. “Law-making and policy-making are the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and has no [place] in dictating what … should be the framework of India’s legal policy. “

For many in India, the debate over the use of social media in the country is not so much about freedom of speech, but rather about a foreign company challenging the strength 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

In order to survive and thrive in these emerging economies, companies like Twitter may need to invest more in local equipment and understand local laws, experts said.

A woman using cell phone in Srinagar, India.  Photo of Faisal Khan / Agència Anadolu via Getty Images

And it is possible that government pressure is already weakening Twitter’s resolution.

After signaling its reservations about the new social media rules last month, the company has said it remains “deeply committed” to India, which is among its largest markets in the world.

“We have assured the Government of India that Twitter is making every possible effort to comply with the new guidelines and that an overview 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 at Delhi-based technology policy consulting firm Koan Advisory Group, the shutdown in Nigeria and the debate in India could be a “wake-up call” for Western networking companies. to “increase local capacity to moderate content and transmit decision-making to country offices”.

“This is, of course, a high demand for new-age companies that are accustomed to global presence and scale, with no major investments in the field,” he said.

“Most social networks spend most of their bandwidth operating in developed markets. This paradigm is unsustainable and is now beginning to change.” added. “Companies that do not duplicate localization in emerging markets may find themselves on the wrong side of splinternet.”

– Stephanie Busari in Lagos contributed to this report.

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