Ethiopia ‘wants own social media platform’, security chief

Ethiopia ‘wants own social media platform’, says security chief

24 August 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Ethiopia wants its own alternative to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom and has already started development.

A Reuters report says that the head of the country’s equivalent to the US’s NSA and the UK’s GCHQ has accused Facebook of deleting posts that are “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.

Shumete Gizaw (pictured from his LinkedIn account), director general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), told the agency that the alternative platform should “replace” Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Zoom, but said they wouldn’t be banned.

However government-controlled Ethio Telecom has shut down access to Facebook and WhatsApp for periods of time, without explanation. INSA is responsible for monitoring telecoms traffic and social media use.

Shumete, formerly a minister at the Ministry of Science and Technology, compared the project to China’s use of WeChat, which provides social media communications and payment services. “The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear,” he told Reuters. “Why do you think China is using WeChat?” He did not tell the news agency when the country planned to launch its own social media platform.

Reuters said that Shumete had accused Facebook of blocking users who were “preaching national unity and peace”.

According to Reuters, in June, just before national elections, Facebook said it had taken down “a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users which it linked to individuals associated with INSA”.

He told an Ethiopian publication, Al-Ain Amharic, that INSA has already completed a trial of a platform to replace WhatsApp and Zoom and that the platform will soon be operational.