Internet shutdowns always cost millions and billions

Since 2019, 234 major internet shutdowns across 43 countries have cost the world economy $15.5 billion, according to Top10VPN’s tracker.

In the case of a social media shutdown, active users can use VPNs to bypass the firewall but there are costs, too. For one, individuals using free VPN versions are vulnerable to data theft and other invasions of privacy.

The ongoing cost of Nigeria’s Twitter ban was expected when it went into force. Being among the best-performing African countries in attracting investments for technology start-up businesses, a ban on a technology service has had a particularly outsized effect on its already ailing economy.

But the Nigerian government has largely brushed off concerns around any related economic cost. Citing the primacy of national security over other considerations, Nigeria’s minister of information, Lai Mohammed, plans to regulate social media companies by requiring them to obtain a license. “The EU says that social media platforms that publish content that is harmful to the security of a nation or make such impressionable move, such content should be removed,’’ he said a week after the ban.

Telecom operators are being sued for Twitter ban

Internet shutdowns cannot be successful without the cooperation of telecom operators. In Nigeria, service providers like South African giant MTN have remained fully compliant with the ban. But legal challenges to their complicity are in the works.

Paradigm Initiative, a digital rights group, announced on Aug. 5 that it joined a class action suit against MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9Mobile. The suit wants to declare the Twitter ban “unlawful, unconstitutional, and against the rights to freedom of expression,” according to a statement posted on Twitter. Paradigm Initiative also filed a separate suit against the Nigerian government and the Nigeria Communication Commission (which formally ordered telecom operators to block Twitter),with the first hearing scheduled for late October.

Nigeria could decide to let go of the ban before the case, if any of its previous conversations with Twitter succeeds. Until then, a loss rate of $6 million a day, according to Netblocks, continues to accrue.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech, and innovation in your inbox.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.