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Nigeria Lifts Twitter Ban Seven Months After Shutting it Down

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that Twitter Ban be lifted seven months after the federal government suspended the micro logging platform operations in Nigeria.

The Director of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who also doubles as the Chairman, Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement made this known in a statement on Wednesday, in Abuja. According to him, the approval for the suspension of the ban follows a memo written to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022. The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim.

“In the Memo, the Minister updated and requested the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation,” Abdullahi said.

It can be recalled that Twitter’s operation was suspended seven months ago, on June 6, 2021 after the microblogging platform deleted a tweet by President Buhari, where he warned those (believed to be members of the Independent People of Biafra- IPOB) destroying INEC’s properties and buildings.

Since then, there has been a back and forth between the federal government who demanded that Twitter open a Nigerian Office and pay taxes, and the microblogging service. However, Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in November last year, revealed that correspondence between the federal government and Twitter had reached an advanced stage. He noted that with a few issues to resolve, Twitter had been able to meet 10 out of twelve.

According to British firm, Top10VPN, the ban had affected around 104.4 million internet users in Nigeria. NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool also revealed that the ban costs Nigeria’s economy N103 million every hour. A week after the suspension, many Nigerians took to downloading Virtual Private Networks to access their Twitter accounts in the country.

Joy Uyino is an avid writer who specializes in stories relating to business, agriculture, technology, education and health.

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French Privacy Watchdog Fines Facebook, Google Nearly $240M

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France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) on Thursday fined Google nearly $170 million and Facebook almost $70 million for making it harder for French users to refuse cookies.

Cookies on a website stores user information. However, France’s privacy regulator has slammed the tech giants, saying that user private information can be hijacked by hackers when they accept the cookies.

CNIL, in its statement, ordered Google and Facebook to fix the issue within three months or face daily fines of more than $100,000 from the restricted committee, the CNIL body that handles sanctions.

“The restricted committee considered that this process affects the freedom of consent: since, on the Internet, the user expects to be able to quickly consult a website, the fact that they cannot refuse the cookies as easily as they can accept them influences their choice in favor of consent,” the CNIL wrote.

That puts the two companies in violation of the French Data Protection Act. On Facebook, YouTube and Google sites, one click can enable cookies but it takes multiple clicks to refuse them all, the watchdog commission added.

“While cookies are largely a matter of privacy and convenience, criminals can hijack them to spy on users.”

Google in response to the European nation’s order, said that it was working to make changes in response to the CNIL commandment.

Facebook also noted that it was reviewing the fines demanded of them, by France’s CNIL.

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WhatsApp Launches #YouSaid Education Campaign to Make People More Aware of False News in Nigeria

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WhatsApp, has announced the launch of #YouSaid, a campaign to educate people on how to verify information they come across before passing it on, to help reduce the spread of false news in Nigeria.

The campaign offers tips for WhatsApp users to spot false news and take responsibility in minimizing its spread, by encouraging people to think carefully and check authoritative sources before deciding to share any information with their friends and family.

“At WhatsApp, all personal messages are protected with end-to-end encryption because the safety and security of our users and their messages is important to us. ” Akua Gyekye, WhatsApp Public Policy Lead  said while commenting on the launch of the campaign. “While we remain committed to creating a safe space for our users to communicate privately, we encourage everyone  to verify any information they receive and confirm whether it is true or false before sharing it with other people. Regardless of the person you received the information from, as soon as you share any information, it becomes something people think #YouSaid. Our hope is that this campaign will open up a conversation on the importance of verifying information and thinking carefully about what people read, trust and choose to share” Gyekye added.

Here are four easy ways to reduce the spread of false news on WhatsApp

  1. Understand what a ‘Forwarded’ message means: Any message that has the ‘forwarded’ label (an arrow or double arrow icon) did not start with the person who sent it to you. They will also have received it from someone else before passing it on to you. If you are not sure the information is true, do not forward it to someone else without verifying it.

A double arrow icon  and “Forwarded many times” label will be displayed when a message has been forwarded more than five times since it was originally sent and will restrict sharing to just one chat at a time.

  1. Always fact check information with other sources:  False news can go viral, and photos, audio recordings, and videos can be edited to mislead you. If you’re unsure whether a message is true, check trusted news sites to see where the story came from. When a story is reported in multiple places and from trustworthy sources, it’s more likely to be true.
  2. Look out for messages that look different: If you receive messages that have such things like misspelled words, wrong dates, awkward layouts, unrelated pictures and web addresses (URLs), it’s a sign that the information could be false.
  3. Read the message objectively: Don’t let what you think you know get in the way of your judgment. Review the facts yourself before sharing information. Stories that seem hard to believe are often untrue.

Today, WhatsApp protects the personal communication of over two billion users all over the world, securing it with end-to-end encryption by default.

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Social Media Censorship: Africa is The Most Censorship-intensive Region, Accounting for 53 Percent of All Cases

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A new report has shown that when it comes to social media censorship, Africa is the most censorship-intensive region, accounting for nearly 53 percent of all cases in 2021 alone.

In the annual report put together by Surfshark, a cybersecurity company, social media censorship cases decline by 35 percent globally – down from 29 in 2020 to 19 in 2021. However, despite the notable decrease in cases “internet disruptions affected approximately a quarter of a billion people.”

In Africa, the majority of social media censorship happened during political events like elections and protests. The report noted that 37 percent of all shutdown cases were during protests while elections period accounted for the remaining 21 percent.

Earlier this year, the Nigerian government ban Twitter after the Jack Dorsey-led platform was accused of sponsoring the now famous EndSars protest in the country and trying to silence the president of Africa’s largest economy, President Muhammadu Buhari, by censoring a tweet from presidential handle for violating Twitter’s hate policy.

Even though the censorship numbers were lower in 2021, they followed a similar trend to last year. The shutdowns usually targeted apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Moreover, the vast majority of the social media shutdown cases were politics-related:

  • Seven cases (37%) affected countries suffering from protests (Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Senegal, Iran, Russia, Cuba, and Columbia).
  • Four cases (21%) affected countries during the presidential elections (Congo, Uganda, Zambia, and Russia).
  • The remaining eight cases (44%) occurred during general political turmoil (Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Iran, and Myanmar).

In comparison, out of 29 social media restriction cases in 2020, six were ordered amid elections, and eight more happened during various protests.

“In terms of politics, 2021 has been more stable than 2020, albeit still far from ideal. However, countries are evidently not afraid to pull the trigger on social media in areas of political turmoil. This is still especially true in Africa and Asia. And while this year showed a positive turn with fewer social media bans, it is yet to be seen whether the trend will continue in 2022 and beyond”, – says Vytautas Kaziukonis, CEO of Surfshark.

Incidents crippled communication for millions of people in times of political distress and a global pandemic. According to Surfshark’s study, 250 million people were affected during the blockings.

This year, Africa has become the most censorship-intensive continent across the globe, responsible for 10 (nearly 53%) of the cases in 2021. Its shutdowns were also the most political-heavy:

  • Africa led the social media shutdown numbers during election days (3 out of 4 total cases were in Congo, Uganda, and Zambia).
  • Chad blocked the internet following a raid at the property of Yaya Dillo, a representative of Chad’s government opposition. This event took place on February 28th, around two months before the presidential election.
  • Ethiopia claimed their social media blackout was due to leaked 12-grade exam papers. However, most people believe the internet was blocked when rebel forces claimed to have seized strategic towns.

About Surfshark

Surfshark, a Gold winner of the Most Innovative Security Service of the Year at the 2021 Cybersecurity Excellence awards , is a privacy protection toolset developed to provide its users with the ability to control their online presence seamlessly. The core premise of Surfshark is to humanize online privacy protection and develop tools that protect users’ privacy beyond the realm of a virtual private network. Surfshark is one of very few VPNs which have been audited by independent security experts.

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