Ethiopia developing own social media platform to rival US tech firms

2021-08-25 17:20:18
Ethiopia developing own social media platform to rival US tech firms

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

The East African nation does not, however, plan to block the US companies, the state communications security agency said on Monday, Reuters reported.

Ethiopia has been engulfed since last year in an armed conflict pitting the federal government against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region in the country's north.

Supporters of both sides have waged a parallel war of words on social media.

The government wants its local platform to "replace" Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Zoom, the director general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Shumete Gizaw, said.

Shumete accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts which he said were "disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia".

Ethiopia, a country of about 115 million, has about 6 million Facebook users according to Statista.

But in June, days before national elections, Facebook said it had removed a network of fake accounts in Ethiopia targeting domestic users which it linked to individuals associated with INSA, which is responsible for monitoring telecommunications and the internet.

Shumete also accused Facebook of blocking users who were "preaching national unity and peace".

He said Ethiopia had the local expertise to develop the platforms and would not hire outsiders to help.

He also told Al-Ain Amharic that authorities were working on the platform to replace Facebook and Twitter, while a trial has already been completed of a platform to replace WhatsApp and Zoom and that platform will soon be operational.

Social messaging app WeChat is owned by China-headquartered Tencent Holdings, is widely used in the country, and is considered to be a strong tool by Chinese authorities for monitoring its population.

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