Ethiopia is taking a giant step to replace western-backed social media platforms over what the country calls the spread of disinformation. The country is developing its own social media platform to replace Facebook, Twitter, Zoom, and WhatsApp, according to Reuters.
The government wants its local platform to “replace” existing platforms, but it does not plan to block other services. According to the director-general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, local experts will be recruited to develop the platform.
“The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear … Why do you think China is using WeChat?,” Gizaw said but did not give a timeline, budget, and other details. He further stressed that Ethiopia has the capacity to develop the platform and will not seek foreign expertise.
Gizaw accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts that he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia.” It follows the removal of a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users who are linked to individuals associated with INSA, which is responsible for monitoring telecommunications and the internet, according to Reuters.
However, Gizaw told Reuters that Ethiopia, which is the second-most populous country in Africa, wants to reduce its reliance on foreign technology firms that meddle in the country’s politics. According to him, his country was drawing inspiration from China, which bars US social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, encouraging citizens to use homemade alternatives.
The move by Ethiopia to develop its platform comes following criticism for shutting down access to the internet and social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp because of the unrest in the Tigray region and also during the election.
The region of Tigray, a vast hilly, and arid area, is named after the Tigrinya-speaking Tigray people, Ethiopia’s fourth-largest ethnic group who are less than 10% of the country’s people.
In spite of the relatively small number of Tigrayans in the country, the TPLF has shaped post-Cold War Ethiopia more than any other political organization in the country.
In 1991, the militant group-cum political party led a coalition of militias and movements to overthrow the communist People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. After that, the group was part of governing coalitions, and at a point produced a prime minister in the late Meles Zenawi.
Due to disagreements with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s Progress Party in 2019, the TPLF left his governing coalition.