The Ethiopian government is reportedly planning to build a local rival to Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, apparently following a number of disagreements with the social media giants – and Facebook in particular – though this has not been officially confirmed.
Nevertheless, according to Reuters, the Director General of the country’s Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, has accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”. He wants the new, local platform or platforms to “replace” Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Zoom.
It’s a difficult time for information exchange in the country. Ethiopia is fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in the country's north and social media companies have had to manage the (more tricky than usual) business of hosting comments but keeping them within the rules.
In June, with national elections imminent, Facebook said it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users. These were linked to individuals associated with INSA, which is responsible for monitoring telecommunications and the internet.
At the same time there have been unexplained shutdowns to social media services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, in the past year.
Shumete Gizaw has suggested that Ethiopia will develop its own versions of various platforms solely using local input. While a platform to replace Facebook and Twitter and another to replace WhatsApp and Zoom are promised, precise launch dates are not yet available.
However, Reuters reports that INSA is not at the moment planning to block existing social media. To date, Facebook, Twitter and Zoom have not officially commented.