The real gist is that the government wants to start “Licensing Social Media and OTT operations in Nigeria”. As contained in a tweet by the Federal Government via the Ministry of Information official handle. The regulation of Social Media is the real aim of all of this. The “Social Media Bill” is back.
For the benefit of those who don’t understand what OTT means, here is what it means -OTT stands for “Over The Top” and refers to any streaming service that delivers content over the Internet. The service is delivered “over the top” of another platform. This is independent of traditional broadcast, cable, and terrestrial satellite networks.
Platforms like Netflix, HBO Now/Max, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Video are all OTT.
Today’s announcement empowers the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NCC to begin registering all OTT and Social Media services. This makes room for regulation of the platforms as well as compliance as a means of ensuring certain information is not available in the country.
So a video on YouTube can be asked to be brought down because it makes Buhari look bad. Just like NBC regulates what information or conversations happen on radio or TV, that’s the same objective they want to achieve.
Let’s not get distracted and focus on the main issues: Before we celebrate access to Twitter via VPN, I must say we have to resist this ban through all legal means and engagement before it gets out of hand. How?
In reality, VPNs are not a sustainable solution to situations this as the major key here is the ISP providers that is MTNs and Co. Which the government have control over. With the ISP providers, VPNs can be also blocked and blacklisted, denying anyone using VPNs access.
A case in point is China in 2018 where all social media platforms were blocked and also VPNs that were not state-approved.
Again, VPN decentralizes our conversations on Nigerian Twitter when Efio-Ita Nyok is chatting from the USA and Frankie Ifop chatting from Ghana, trends in Nigeria won’t work well and we know how important trends can be and has been to citizens engaging this government.
There is also a case of public and police harassment. You can’t trust the Nigerian police won’t search your phone just to see if you are using Twitter just to intimidate you.
While we use VPNs to bypass this craziness, it’s best it never happened but we all know that’s wishful thinking now but we must fight for citizens right to expression and a free society.