Ethiopia has begun developing its own social media platform to rival Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

August 25, 2021

Ethiopia has begun developing its own social media platform to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, while it has no plans to restrict the worldwide platforms, according to the country’s governmental communications security agency. According to Shumete Gizaw, director-general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), the government wants its local platform to “replace” Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Zoom. Shumete claimed that Facebook has removed content and user accounts that were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia.” International human rights organizations have chastised Ethiopia’s government for shutting down social media services such as Facebook and WhatsApp without explanation in the last year. The government has been silent about the shutdowns. According to Statista, Ethiopia, which has a population of roughly 115 million people, has about 6 million Facebook members. However, in June, just days before the national elections, Facebook announced that it had taken down a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia aimed at infiltrating local users, which is linked to individuals associated with the INSA, the country’s telecommunications, and internet monitoring agency. Shumete did not reveal a schedule, budget, or other specifics, but told Reuters: “It’s easy to see why building technologies with local capability is a good idea… Why do you believe China uses WeChat?” Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), based in China, owns the social messaging program WeChat, which is extensively used in the country and is regarded as a powerful tool by Chinese authorities for monitoring its populace. He added, Ethiopia has the native knowledge to construct the platforms and would not enlist the help of outsiders. Shumete also told Reuters about comments he made to a local language news site on Friday, in which he accused Facebook of censoring people who were “preaching national unity and peace.” He also informed Al-Ain Amharic that authorities were working on a platform to replace Facebook and Twitter, and that a trial of a platform to replace WhatsApp and Zoom had already been finished and that the platform would be active shortly.

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