Ethiopia’s government is building its own social media platform to replace Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom, the state’s communications security agency said on Monday.
While the government doesn’t plan to block any of the American-owned platforms, it wants to reduce reliance on foreign technology firms that meddle in the country’s politics, Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency director-general Shumete Gizaw told Reuters.
He accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia.”
In June, days before national elections, Facebook said it had removed a network of fake accounts in the country of 112 million that targeted domestic users. Facebook said the fake accounts were linked to individuals associated with the Ethiopian government.
Human rights groups have also criticized the Ethiopian government for unexplained shutdowns to social media services including Facebook and WhatsApp over the past year.
The alleged government meddling and shutdowns have come amid a brutal civil war between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which controls a region in the country’s north. Supporters of both sides have relied heavily on social media to spread their messages.
Twitter spokesperson Ann-Marie Lowry declined to comment. Zoom and Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Shumete said said that Ethiopia was drawing inspiration from China, which blocks US social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, encouraging citizens to use homemade alternatives.
“The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear,” Shumete told Reuters. “Why do you think China is using WeChat?”
Social messaging app WeChat is owned by China’s Tencent Holdings and is considered to be a strong tool by Chinese authorities for monitoring its population.
Shumete did not provide details on the government’s timeline or budget for its app, but said it would be developed by Ethiopians instead of hired foreigners.
By Theo Wayt
New York Post