Twitter suspension bites hard on brands, businesses | Dailytrust

Twitter suspension bites hard on brands, businesses

The recent temporary suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is beginning to bite hard on businesses and brands with huge online visibility....

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami

The recent temporary suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria is beginning to bite hard on businesses and brands with huge online visibility.

The federal government had Friday suspended Twitter from operating in Nigeria’s cyberspace for deleting President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet which was critical of the Biafra agitation.

The impact of the suspension on the economy is beginning to unravel even as broadcast stations are among the first hit.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) instructed all radio and television stations in Nigeria to suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately, uninstall Twitter handles and desist from using it as a source of information gathering.

The Managing Director of Radio Now 95.3FM Lagos, Kadaria Ahmed, said Radio Now is not convinced a ban on Twitter and a directive by NBC, barring broadcasting stations from using the platform is the right way.

“We believe such decisions must consider the implications for press freedom, our fragile democracy and the impact on livelihoods,” she stated in a statement yesterday.

NetBlocks, a data-driven online service, has estimated that Nigeria will lose N2.46 billion ($6.01 million) per day for blocking Twitter in Nigeria.

It further estimates that Nigeria stands to lose N10.9 billion daily if it shuts down WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

The online service, relying on Brookings Institution and CIPESA methodologies, estimates the economic cost of internet disruptions on its cost of shutdown tool (COST) platform.

SMEs, influencers, startups suffer losses

The Vice President and Director of Governance Studies and founding Director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, Darrell West in one of his reports analysed how 81 short-term shutdowns of the internet in 19 countries between July 2015 and June 2016 cost at least $2.4bn in GDP globally.

Economic losses include $968 million in India, $465 million in Saudi Arabia, $320 million in Morocco, $209 million in Iraq, $116 million in Brazil, $72 million in the Republic of the Congo, $69 million in Pakistan, $69 million in Bangladesh, $48 million in Syria, $35 million in Turkey, and $20 million in Algeria, among other places.

But tech and economic experts who spoke to Daily Trust yesterday said the real impact of the Twitter suspension would be to the millions of SMEs that rely on having access to Twitter on a daily basis to reach out to markets they wouldn’t be able to reach using other platforms.

This decision by the government, experts warned, would bite harder on Nigeria’s start-up scene, which has experienced tremendous growth in a short time, with $3, 77.4m raised in 2019 and $120.6m in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This suspension puts this growth in jeopardy as the businesses of most start-ups depend, in some part, on social media. Applications built using Twitter APIs are also affected.

The influencer marketing space has also grown as Nigerian internet users with dedicated followers snag deals with organisations, both local and international, looking to extend their reach. This job opportunity is threatened by this suspension.

Netblocks estimates that Nigeria loses about N48.6 billion per day in economic value relating to the global digital economy if social media is shut down for a day.

It further estimates that Nigeria stands to lose N10.9 billion daily if it shuts down WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

To gauge the impact of Twitter on businesses, recall that Nigerian fintech startup, Cowrywise, recently announced a $3 million pre-Series A raise led by Quona Capital. One of the participating investors, Sahil Lavingia tweeted about how the investment conversation started – via Twitter direct message (DM).

 Businesses with Twitter presence suffer- Expert

A software and network engineer, Mr. Yusuf Aweda said suspending Twitter may not directly lead to revenue losses to Nigeria, but those that would be affected are the companies that have their “business ambiance” on Twitter.

He told Daily Trust that those companies whose businesses were driven by Twitter might be denied the right audience they envisaged but this does not translate to revenue losses for the government.

“It is those who have their business ambiance on Twitter that would be massively affected,” he said.

Losses to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Speaking on the possible losses to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like the MTN, Airtel, Etisalat, among others, Aweda noted that they would not feel much heat over the Twitter suspension.

He said people don’t buy data to be on Twitter alone but to use other platforms and even browse.

“So they may not feel much. Many people buy data for collective internet engagement and not for Twitter alone,” he said.

Data scientist and analytics consultant, Blaise Aboh warned that it will affect the ISPs as more customers will now visit their physical offices to have their complaints attended to. Something, he said, was usually resolved via a tweet at, or DM (Direct Message) to the Help account of the ISPs.

 Dip in FDI looms – experts

A tech entrepreneur, Oluyomi Ojo, said political stability is one of the factors that investors consider while making investment decisions.

“By banning Twitter and directing the NBC to start licensing OTT services in the country, investors are not likely to jump at the opportunity of investing in Nigerian start-ups depriving the country of much-needed investments,” he said.

Brands halt Twitter adverts

An influencer on the microblog, Haruna Usman, said with the suspension, brands have stopped giving adverts with the view that their product would not get to a wider audience.

This, he said, has led to most influencers not making money from the platform.

He said the money he is paid varies as those behind his post can be individual like an upcoming artiste or companies but he makes N50,000 monthly.

Former President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr Olusola Teniola, told Daily Trust that in reality, the socio-economic loss of the suspension to Nigeria would be significantly far more than the losses that the telecom companies might bear in terms of lost data consumption associated with providing access to Twitter.

“The Nigerian federal government is the greater loser in all this as companies and startups that employ the youth and others in selling and buying over this platform generate potential tax revenue for the government and it is this employment that the government seeks to build on by migrating the Nigerian economy to a digital economy,” he said.

Former Chairman, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), Lolu Akinwunmi said there are a few reasons why the suspension should be reconsidered.

“Twitter is a social medium that young people in Nigeria use a lot for regular communication and business. It will affect them at a period when making a living is already tough,” he said.

He observed that the new productive sectors such as Nollywood, Haute Couture, music and entertainment depend so much on Twitter.

The Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, said that the Twitter saga raises a major issue of proportionality on both sides of the divide.

“We should worry about the collateral damage to businesses that could result from the Twitter suspension. Many businesses, especially SMEs, leverage this digital platform for marketing and other promotional activities. The implication is that this group of businesses are being deprived of the use of the platform,”

Yusuf said some Twitter-based businesses have some ongoing contractual obligations in this regard.

“The outright ban was disproportionate, having regards to the wider implications for numerous small businesses that derive significant value from the use of this digital platform,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said on Monday that there is no timeline for the lift of Twitter suspension in Nigeria.

In an interview with newsmen shortly after a closed-door meeting with the envoys of United States, United Kingdom, Canada, European Union and Ireland, Onyeama said there was no definite timeline for that, adding that “discussion is ongoing to see how that progresses. So I can’t say the duration of the suspension now.”

From Sunday Michael Ogwu,  Abdullateef Aliyu & Christana T. Alabi (Lagos), Francis Arinze Iloani, Chris Agabi, Faruk Umar, Zakariyya Adaramola & Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Abuja)