Has internet regulation already begun with Feminist Coalition?

There has been much fuss about social media regulation and webspace restriction for some time now but the climax was reached during the #EndSARS protests as speculations were rife that the government would shut down microblogging platform, Twitter, which played host to the hashtag trend which later translated into physical demonstration across the country.

However, despite the rumours, nothing materialised during the protests. The only time Twitter was inaccessible for Nigerians was when the #EndSARS emoji was to be introduced. Yet, conversations among political leaders continued as governors of the northern states held a meeting where they voiced their support for social media regulation.

Public backlash followed the deliberation of the northern leaders with many telling them to pay more attention to their perennial security challenge. Despite the heavy criticism, the regulation discourse continued when the federal government said it would go ahead with social media regulation, with Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, citing arson and looting as consequences of social media liberty.

It would now appear that the government is making good on its word as reports are growing that the website of Feminist Coalition, the humanitarian group which was a key figure during the #EndSARS protests and managed donations made across the globe, is currently inaccessible to residents in Nigeria.

Those who have been able to access the website were able to do so through virtual private network (VPN). VPN acts as an intermediary which allows users to bypass restrictions and until they reach the desired web destination.

More importantly, the latest apparent restriction on Feminist Coalition’s website continues the spate of attack on #EndSARS protesters. Without taking #LekkiShootings into consideration, bank accounts have been frozen, passports seized, youths arrested and court orders obtained just to silence youths that have acted within the confines of the law.

With this, it is a logical indication that the regulation of social media and the internet at large is not far behind. For a government that should be upholding the tenets of democracy and constitutionally enshrined liberties such as the rights to life, association, expression and privacy, it is baffling to many Nigerians that such measures are being thought of, let alone being implemented.

With the country battling a second recession in five years, and the worst in four decades, social media regulation, even with its anti-democratic implication, should have been the least on the minds of those at the helm but Nigerians continue to face hard times on more ends than they would have desired.

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