Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has reportedly reached out to Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to discuss plans to build an internet firewall.
According to FIJ, on Saturday, as Nigerians woke up to the implemented Twitter ban and having to download Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access Twitter, Federal Government through the office of the Presidency reached out to Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to discuss plans to build an internet firewall.
The government officials present at the meeting include Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President, and Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, who announced the Twitter suspension.
In technology, a firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted network and an untrusted network, such as the Internet.
Building an internet firewall in Nigeria will mean having a separate network for the country that will give the government control over social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, similar to the internet filtering system China operates, called Great Firewall (GFW).
The internet firewall will also give the Nigerian government power to block VPN, which many Nigerians are using to access Twitter following the suspension of the micro-blogging platform.
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China’s firewall is technically operated by the Cyberspace Administration of China and the firewall’s role in internet censorship in China is to block access to selected foreign websites and to slow down cross-border internet traffic.
The effect includes: limiting access to foreign information sources, blocking foreign internet tools like Google Search, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and other mobile apps, as well as requiring foreign companies to adapt to domestic regulations.
As required by the government, major internet platforms in China established elaborate self-censorship mechanisms. As at 2019, more than sixty online restrictions had been created by the Government of China and implemented by provincial branches of state-owned Internet Service Providers (ISPs), companies and organisations. Some companies hire teams and invested in powerful artificial intelligence algorithms to police and remove illegal online content.
Meanwhile, according to the publication, Federal Government seeks to establish Nigerian Internet, which it will also be controlled.
A digital security expert told the publication that China is the only country that deploys total Deep Packet Inspection over its cyberspace – a technology that involves making use of lots of manpower.
Additionally, CAC which is the regulator for China’s firewall and answers to Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, headed by Xi Jinping, China’s President.
Since its existence, CAC, which also gives approval to data by Chinese companies outside of China, regulates usernames on Chinese Internet, licences news information services, and bans comments that “harm national security” or “harm the nations honour interest”.
It would be recalled that Federal Government has in the past few years sought a way to control freedom of expression online.
In 2015, Frivolous Petition Bill targeting online and print media as well as regulating social media posts was introduced into the Senate just 10 months after Buhari’s ascent to power.
In 2019, lawmakers introduced two bills: the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill and Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and other Related Offences bill, prompting public outcry that meant they were not passed into law.