Last week, the Twitter account of blogger Linda Ikeji was suspended.
At the time of writing this piece, Ikeji’s account is still in digital purgatory, arising from an ongoing action by Twitter to purge its platform from bots and spammy accounts and clamp down on users who violate its policies.
Ikeji’s suspension has seen Nigerian Twitter devolve into debates and hot takes.
Her offence? Most likely the sexualised content involving two children published on her eponymous blog, looped from her Twitter account and was reported by the children’s mother.
Given the nature of the internet and how things go viral, Ikeji’s blog joined a multitude of sites amplifying that particular content as fodder and thus exposing the minors involved to audiences beyond who then exposed the children to abuse and toxicity.
The only problem I have with Linda Ikeji is her not taking down a content when the person involved or affected asks her to. TheShaderoom has stopped posting about Cardi B after she asked them to stop. It’s simple, respect dem and delete, it might b affecting dem or their families
— Tessyama👑 (@tescool) August 17, 2018
The problem is not that Linda Ikeji lifts what you post online, it’s that she couches it in such a way that her blog vultures devour you.
It is that she’s now ‘big’ in her jagaja journalism&she can choose not to post certain things but she’s too morally bankrupt to consider that
— Aunty Sidi (@Aunty_Les) August 17, 2018
The Linda Ikeji Blog has become infamous for attracting the worst of Nigerians.
Perhaps because Linda has promoted a culture where she refuses to regulate the community that has grown around the content she shares, attracting the vilest commenters, the apex dispensers of the Nigerian internet vitriol who have been shut out everywhere else.
The reputation Ikeji gained from unethical gossip blogging has been bad, repeated cases of privacy violation that can fill a book and provided the blueprint for her successful blogging trajectory.
The aforementioned sexualised content was reportedly taken down by other platforms, as requested, but Ikeji didn’t respond when the legal representatives for the family in question reached out to her.
Although her blog is still fully operational, Twitter has played its part; its policy on publishing private details or property on the platform is abundantly clear, and it’s considered as one of the most serious violations of the Twitter Rules.
Twitter is also aware that not all postings are a violation of the policy but states that if the publicly available information is being shared to harass or incite harassment, then it may take enforcement action under their abusive behaviour policy.
Tellingly, Nigeria’s cyber laws aren’t stringent enough, as it has shaped an internet culture of online theft, copyright infringement and privacy violation.
In 2013, renowned blogger Perez Hilton was slapped with a $2.1m claim for copyright infringement after he used photos taken by a New York Times photographer and tried to pass them off as his.
The following year, and after the massive celebrity nude photo leak, Hilton removed nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence and Victoria Justice from his website and apologised, saying in a tweet that he didn’t feel “comfortable” keeping the images on his site.
“Putting gossip on the internet is like throwing meat to alligators,” Daniel J. Solove writes in his book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, “When information is on the internet, many people may readily link to it, talk about it, copy it, repost it, and so on.”
While Solove thinks gossip bloggers shouldn’t be held liable for damages, he is of the opinion that victims should be able to seek legal recourse against bloggers who don’t honour requests to delete or suppress private information.
Already, there’s a galvanising legal campaign against Ikeji which, I think, will seek to punish her for alleged unethical journalism. That said, entertaining the possibility of a behemoth like Ikeji buying her way out of a lawsuit feels slightly dispiriting.
And although it will take some time, her Twitter account will be handed back to her and followers will be cultivated. Then, her suspension would only feel like a slap on the wrist.
Perhaps repeated offences will see her permanently removed from the platform. And this is something she should worry about.