Twitter is not the only platform the federal government is trying to regulate as the government also hinted at licensing social media and OTT operations in Nigeria, according to the statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
“The Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria,” Alhaji Lai said.
Tweet posts by popular social and political commentator, Oluseyi Sonaiya, explained OTT and the implication of the government’s intention to regulate the space.
“OTT” stands for “over the top,” and is video industry parlance for content delivered via the internet, independent of traditional broadcast, cable, and terrestrial satellite networks.
Netflix, HBO Now/Max, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Video… all OTT.
The announcement instructs the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation to begin registering all OTT and social media services. This creates the opportunity for regulation and forcible compliance as a means of ensuring certain information is not available in the country,” Sonaiya tweeted, following the statement by Lai Mohammed.
What happens now?
It would appear that the government’s motive for the Twitter ban and the demand that social media and OTT services become registered, is to gag free speech and silence dissenting voices. It remains to be seen how far they would go in fostering this agenda and the punitive measures they would institute for non-compliance.
The speech by Alhaji Lai has once again, brought the government into the spotlight both locally and internationally, and most of the reactions following the announcement of the ban and its actual implementation have been at variance with the government’s decision.
Locally, notable voices including vociferous Lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana; musician cum politician, Bankole Wellington (Banky W); Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; billionaire businessman, founder and former chairman of Stanbic IBTC, Atedo Peterside; and a host of others have openly disagreed with the government’s move with Governor Makinde outrightly calling for a reversal.
Internationally, representatives of foreign governments including the embassies of Sweden, Canada and the UK have equally disagreed with the government via tweet posts. It is expected that more of this will follow in the coming days particularly if a clampdown on social media and OTT platforms actually begins.
In the meanwhile, Nigerians observe with bated breath to see what would become of activities on beloved platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Netflix and several others. Perhaps, in the coming days, the government through its respective media and communications regulatory agencies would provide more clarifications on the expectations from these platforms. This is assuming that the government is not mandated by the court to stay action on its decision until the issue is decided legally, as various civil rights groups, notably SERAP, have hinted at suing the government for the ban.