By Faith Nyasuguta
War-torn Ethiopia has launched the development of its own social media platform to rival WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
According to the state communications security agency, there are no plans to block the social media giants.
Since November 2020, the nation has drowned 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.
Following this, supporters of either side have been waging a war of words against each other on social media platforms.
The incumbent leadership now wants the local platform to take the place of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and zoom, Shumete Gizaw, the director-general of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) said.
Shumete alleged that Facebook was deleting posts and user accounts that were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.
On the flip side, multinational rights groups have faulted the Ethiopian government for unexplained shutdowns to social media services in 2020, among them Facebook and WhatsApp.
The state is yet to respond to the allegations.
Days before Ethiopia’s national elections in June, Facebook said it had scrapped a number of faux accounts aiming at domestic users in Ethiopia.
The accounts were tied to individuals aligned with the telecommunications and Internet regulators in the country.
Shumete refused to give a specific timeline, the projected budget among other logistics but instead said, “The rationale behind developing technology with local capacity is clear … Why do you think China is using WeChat?”
The director confirmed that Ethiopia has local expertise capable of developing platforms.
The social media platform, WeChat, owned by China-based Tencent Holdings, is popularly used in the country and Chinese authorities say it is a strong tool for monitoring its population.
Shumete says the trials for the local platform had been completed and that it will launch soon.
This transition could prove burdensome and strenuous. Transitioning from a major social media platform changes a lot. They should look through this fully before making the call.