Following the government’s decision to replace social network services with local operators, Facebook, Twitter, and other microblogging social media platforms will cease to exist in Ethiopia.
African leaders are becoming dissatisfied with the operation of foreign social media platforms, particularly in the quest by some citizens to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Ethiopia has begun developing its own social media platform to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, though it does not intend to block the global services, according to the state communications security agency on Monday.
Since last year, Ethiopia has been engulfed in an armed conflict between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region in the country’s north.
Both sides’ supporters have engaged in a verbal brawl on social media.
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 accused Facebook of removing posts and user accounts that he claimed were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia.”
In the last year, international human rights organizations have criticized the Ethiopian government for unexplained shutdowns of social media services such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
The government hasn’t said anything about the shutdowns.
Kezia Anim-Addo, Facebook’s Africa spokesperson, declined to comment on Ethiopia’s plans and did not respond immediately to a question about Shumete’s accusations.
However, Facebook announced in June, just days before the national elections, that it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia aimed at domestic users, which it had linked to individuals associated with the INSA, which is in charge of monitoring telecommunications and the internet.
Twitter did not respond. Zoom did not respond immediately to a comment request.
Shumete declined to provide a timeline, budget, or other details but told Reuters that “the rationale for developing technology with local capacity is clear… Why do you believe China is utilizing WeChat?”
He stated that Ethiopia possessed the necessary local expertise to develop the platforms and would not enlist the assistance of outsiders.
WeChat, a social messaging app owned by China’s Tencent Holdings 700, is widely used in the country and is regarded as a powerful tool by Chinese authorities for monitoring its population.
Shumete also told Reuters about comments he made to a local media outlet on Friday in which he accused Facebook of blocking users who were “preaching national unity and peace.”
He also told 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 completed, and that platform would be operational soon.
According to the new complaint, Facebook purchased rival platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp because they were unable to keep up with the transition to mobile platforms and audiences.
Recently, talk of antitrust suits against today’s big tech companies has become common, with support on both sides of the political aisle, but it is unclear whether the US federal government will ever succeed in limiting big tech’s power.