The Ethiopian government has accused the giant social media platform, Twitter, of suspending and targeting pro-Ethiopian voices and related groups without any explanation, Bilene Seyoum, Press Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office said in a press statement on Nov 30, that Twitter is suppressing voices in support of Ethiopia.
“The TPLF is using the same narrative techniques it employed 80 years ago as it was trying to advance within different parts of the country. And the only difference now is its manipulation of the advent of social media as a tool of propaganda and psychological warfare,” said Bilene.
“We are witnessing on social media platforms, the mainstream media and also the academic circles silencing of pro-Ethiopian voices and the propping up of regime change and pro-TPLF narratives instead.”
She also disclosed that the Ethiopian government had informed the company’s policy team about the infiltration of TPLF supporters on Twitter.
“We believe Twitter has been infiltrated by TPLF sympathizers in the same manner that many democratic institutions and corporate spaces have also been infiltrated to provide a TPLF narrative”
Recently, a leaked video of a secret meeting in which celebrated Ethiopians, a representative of the TPLF, and former and current western diplomats were in attendance, went viral and incited anger among many Ethiopians who considered it as a secret plot to overthrow the government. Following the video release, Mimi Alemayehu, who is appointed as Independent Director to Twitter’s Board of Directors, was claimed to be a board member of the organization, Peace and Development Center International (PDCI), which hosted the secret meeting. The claim had put Mimi in question whether she could be behind Twitter’s recent content moderations in Ethiopia.
However, she dismissed the allegation stating that she is never a board member of PDCI and joined the company as a member with the expectation of contributing for the good of Ethiopia and is not involved in Twitter’s content moderation.
“I was never a board member of the organization, [PDCI], and did not hold any decision-making power. I would like to express my strongest opposition to comments made on a recent virtual meeting organized by PDCI which I did not attend. . . In regards to my role on Twitter, as a board member, I’m not involved in any content moderation decisions,” she confided in her statement.
On Nov 29, Twitter disabled a dozen Ethiopian accounts that had recently helped promote the #NoMore hashtag campaign decrying the US intervention in the country’s affairs. Among the disabled accounts is Horn of Africa Hub, an account with 18.8 thousand followers. The page had been instrumental in promoting the #NoMore hashtag campaign.
Following the suspension of the accounts, several social media users reacted to the issue, and petitions were organized to push Twitter to restore the pro-Ethiopian accounts.
Twitter Inc announced on Nov 5 that it had temporarily disabled its Trends section in Ethiopia over threats of physical harm, and reported that it was monitoring the situation. "Inciting violence or dehumanizing people is against our rules... Given the imminent threat of physical harm, we've also temporarily disabled Trends in Ethiopia," It said.
Following its decision, Twitter was widely decried for disabling the trending section, particularly at the time when the #NoMore campaign had become intensively popular widely among the local and international Ethiopian and Eritrean communities.