Ethiopia and Facebook face off – again

Ethiopia and Facebook face off – again

In the past week Facebook has removed a post violating its policies against inciting violence. Nothing too surprising about that, you might argue. However, this post was from Ethiopia's prime minister.

Last Sunday Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on citizens take up arms to block the advance of the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), urging citizens to "organise and march through [any] legal manner with every weapon and power... to prevent, reverse and bury the terrorist TPLF".

A spokesperson for Facebook, whose parent company recently rebranded to Meta, told the BBC: "At Meta, we remove content from individuals or organizations that violate our Community Standards, no matter who they are." 

The BBC website points out that last month leaked documents suggested that Facebook had been warned that its platform was being used by armed groups in Ethiopia to incite violence against ethnic minorities.

Now, however, the company is facing a backlash within Ethiopia where, according to the Technext website, some citizens have called for the government to shut down Facebook, referring in some cases to Nigeria’s suspension of Twitter after that country’s president posted a tweet that was deleted.

This isn’t a completely new issue as far as Ethiopia is concerned. We reported in August that the Ethiopian government was planning to build a local rival to Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.

At the time the Director General of the country’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.

He may have been referring to actions in June around the time of national elections when Facebook said it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users. These were linked to individuals associated with INSA.

Plans to develop one or more local versions of Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp do not, so far, seem to have been developed.

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