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Ethiopian government denies responsibility for social media blackout

Ethiopia has reportedly enacted a “blackout targeted at mobile data connections” which has taken services such as WhatsApp and Twitter offline.

According to local users, the apps have been inaccessible for over a month in certain regions of the East African country. Facebook Messenger is reportedly also unavailable via the network of state-owned Ethio Telecom, the country’s only mobile provider.

One of the affected regions is Oromia, where recent protests against planned urban expansion resulted in alleged violent government crackdowns and the deaths of 226 demonstrators. The southern city of Hawassa is also understood to be affected.

A government spokesperson suggested that the blackout was caused by issues with either the network or the apps themselves, adding that the government had not enacted a policy of blocking access to the services.

However, Ethio Telecom chief executive Andualem Admassie has reportedly gone on record saying that the government is able to “control” access to messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, has been hit with bans in other markets such as Brazil, where it was banned for 48 hours last year after failing to comply with a judicial order to surrender user data relating to an drug trafficker alleged to have used the service.

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