A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE IMPACT OF TWITTER’S BAN ON GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
1.1 Background of the study
Transparency and accountability are critical for the efficient functioning of a modern democracy and for fostering social well-being. In most societies, many powers are delegated to public authorities. Some assurance must then be provided to the delegators, that is, society at large, that this transfer of power is not only effective, but also not abused. Transparency ensures that information is available that can be used to measure the authorities’ performance and to guard against any possible misuse of powers. In that sense, transparency serves to achieve accountability, which means that authorities can be held responsible for their actions. Without transparency and accountability, trust will be lacking between a government and those whom it governs. The result would be social instability and an environment that is less than conducive to economic growth.
Transparency can be understood as a composite construct involving multiple components, such as external accessibility and active disclosure. It has been defined in different ways, but most of the definitions see visibility as fundamental. A good working definition of transparency can be expanded to include completeness, understanding, or inferability of information, but it essentially begins with “the availability of information about an actor that allows the other actors to monitor the workings or performance of the first actor.”Governments can promote transparency by actively disclosing information about their activities and decisions and then enabling citizens to access, monitor, and evaluate it. From the citizen’s point of view, government transparency is perceived when government information is publicly available. However, even if information is available, citizens will not perceive government transparency until they are effectively informed of government activities and decisions (Zavattaro, S. M., & Sementelli, A. J. 2015).
Nigeria’s government is one of those that uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites to inform citizens about their policies and programs. There has recently been a lot of uncertainty in their citizens’ minds regarding the ban on one of the popular social networking sites, Twitter.Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and re-tweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through its website interface or its mobile-device application software. Thus, in the absence of timely information, such as shared on these social networking sites, citizens may be pushed to lose faith in the transparency of the government and this invariably sends a message that the government is not accountable to the citizens, which is derogatory to true democratic principles.
1.2 Statement of the problem
On 4th June 2021, the Nigerian government officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria, after the social media platform deleted tweets made by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, warning the south-eastern people of Nigeria, predominantly occupied by the Igbo people, of a potential repeat of the 1967 Biafran Civil War (CNN 2021). The Nigerian government claimed that the deletion of the President’s tweets factored into their decision, but it was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it has had real-world, violent consequences”.
Although Amnesty International, the British and Canadian missions, and the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria, as well as domestic organizations such as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), have all condemned the ban, its implications are likely to have a significant negative impact on the profitability of Nigerian telecommunications companies.
According to the Social-Media-Poll-Report (2020), more than 120 million Nigerians have access to the internet and social networking sites and nearly 40 million of them have a Twitter account — 20% of the population. Thus, the banning of Twitter in Nigeria invariably means that one of the many social media platforms through which citizens are informed about government policies and programs has been obstructed, sending a lot of messages to the masses about the Buhari-led administration’s level of transparency and accountability. Therefore, it is upon this premise that this study is set to examine the impact of the Twitter ban on government transparency and accountability.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The main focus of this study is to examine the Twitter ban’s effect on government transparency. The study specifically seeks to:
- Investigate the importance of social media for government transparency.
- To examine the extent of government transparency through the Twitter platform before the ban.
- To determine whether the current Twitter ban will have an impact on citizens’ perceptions of the government’s transparency and accountability.
1.4 Research Hypothesis
The research is guided by the following hypothesis.
HO1: Nigeria’s Twitter ban does not have a negative impact on citizens’ perceptions of government transparency.
HO2: There is no significant relationship between the Twitter ban and government accountability.
1.5 Significance of the study
This study depicts a critical analysis of the effect of the Twitter ban on government transparency and accountability, it is critical to note that the findings and theoretical aspects of this work will be relevant to citizens, political stakeholders, and the government. To the stakeholders and the government, the study will enlighten them on the need to reassess the current ban on Twitter, knowing how this will affect the perception of its citizens on the level of their transparency and accountability, as the effect of this may jeopardize the true tenet of democracy. More so, the study will also be significantly useful to students and researchers and other individuals who may have the interest to gather or carryout any study related to the topic under study.
1.6 Scope of the study
The scope of this study extends to a critical examination of the impact of Twitter’s ban on government transparency and accountability. The study is therefore limited to Twitter Users in Lagos State.
1.7 Limitations of the study
During the course of this research, the following factors are proposed to be a limitation.
Financial constraint– Inadequate funding tends to impede the researcher’s efficiency in locating relevant materials, literature, or information, as well as in the data collection process (internet, questionnaire, and interview).
Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research is reduced.
1.8 Definition of terms
Twitter: Twitter is an American micro-blogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.
Twitter Ban: This is the authoritative pause in the operation of Twitter as mandated by the Federal government of Nigeria on June 5th 2021 until the owners of the social network meet the newly established requirements given to them by the government of Nigeria.
Transparency: Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, operates in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.
Accountability: Accountability, in terms of ethics and governance, is equated with answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving.
CNN (2021) Nigeria bans Twitter after company deletes President Buhari’s tweet”. . Retrieved 5 June 2021.
Social-Media-Poll-Report (2020) 2020 Global Social Media Market Survey report retrieved from google search.
Washington Post. (2021) “Nigeria suspends Twitter after the social media platform freezes president’s account”. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
Zavattaro, S. M., & Sementelli, A. J. (2015). A critical examination of social media adoption in government: Introducing omnipresence. Government Information Quarterly, 31, 257–264. doi:10.1016/j.giq.2013.10.007