The social media giant has been ensnared in a battle with the Indian government for months over free speech and other issues, and is contending with restrictive new rules pushed by New Delhi. If that wasn’t enough, even more dramatic events are unfolding thousands of miles away along Africa’s Western coast.
Nigeria last week “indefinitely” blocked Twitter after the company deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened a brutal clampdown on unrest in Africa’s most populous nation. The Nigerian government also ordered federal prosecutors to arrest users of the app.
The restrictions in India and the ban in Nigeria are troublesome for Twitter. While the company does not break down user data for these countries, independent research suggests India is among its top five markets. Asia’s third-largest economy, with its 700 million internet users and many more yet to come online is also Twitter’s top growth market. Meanwhile, nearly 20% of Nigeria’s population of 200 million have Twitter accounts, according to NOI Polls.
Now that Nigeria has shown it isn’t afraid to ban Twitter, some worry India might be next if the tussle between New Delhi and the company can’t be resolved.
The Silicon Valley-based company’s response to political pressure in these countries will decide its trajectory in fast-growing economies that are critical to any global expansion strategy. Successfully navigating the tensions could give other American technology firms a roadmap for dealing with governments that have increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
Ghana ranked 13 places higher than Nigeria in 2019 on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index.” When announcing the decision in April, Twitter described Ghana “as a champion for democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet.”
“The Nigeria ban will definitely get many other emerging economies thinking about how to also get the attention of platforms,” Gbenga Sesan, executive director of Paradigm Initiative, which works on digital inclusion and rights in Africa, told CNN Business. He added that if Twitter meets Nigeria’s new registration requirements, “then such countries could try the same approach in order to get tax revenues.”
In order to survive and thrive in these emerging economies, companies like Twitter may have to invest more in local teams and understanding local laws, experts said.