Nigeria’s government announced on Friday 4th June, 2021 that it was suspending Twitter “indefinitely” after the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Tweet, which violated Twitter’s “abusive behaviour” policy.
Since the ban, users have been on the lookout for ways to access the social media platform through the use of a VPN. The volume of online search conducted on the word “VPN” showed its popularity during the week according to the search tracking site, Trends Map.
Users who generally express their views on Twitter and other social platforms opted for VPNs to conceal their IP addresses, keeping internet service providers (ISPs) in the dark about their online activities and locations.
One of such popular VPNs accessed by Nigerian users was Express VPN. Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN told Tech Mansion that ExpressVPN.com saw a >200% increase in web traffic from Nigeria. The biggest spike came on Saturday, June 6th, when web traffic increased by around 250% compared to the day prior.
VPNs are first and foremost, security tools that help to protect users from being hacked, tracked, monitored, or otherwise compromised. ExpressVPN believes that digital privacy and internet accessibility are human rights, and will continue to speak out on this issue while encouraging others to do the same.
Despite the massive switch to VPNs, there have been harrowing concerns about the risk of using VPN like sharing user data with a third party or breaching privacy. Harold noted that ExpressVPN does not share user data with third parties. He said, “we do not collect anything that would allow ExpressVPN or anyone else to match an individual to specific network activity or behaviour. We have designed our systems to not have sensitive data about our customers. Even when compelled, we cannot provide data that we do not possess.”
ExpressVPN sees data as a “liability” and the company’s guiding principle toward data collection is to collect only the minimal data required to operate a world-class VPN service at scale.
“We do not collect logs of activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of IP addresses, outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration. Essentially, we do not store or collect any data that could identify an individual and their online activity,” Harold Li told Nairametrics.
Why this matters
Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in the world. According to a report, about 50% of Nigeria’s population used the Internet as of January 2021. The Twitter ban and the efforts by the Nigerian Government to regulate social media platforms will limit most of these users who use the platform to connect with people, share knowledge and also run their businesses.