Ethiopia accuses Twitter of pro-rebel bias in complaint

AFP

3 min read
A man covers himself with an Ethiopian flag during a rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 7, 2021.
EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFPA man covers himself with an Ethiopian flag during a rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 7, 2021.

Eritrea complained that Twitter suspended the New Africa Institute, a self-described think tank

Ethiopia filed a complaint with Twitter accusing the social media giant of suspending accounts critical of Tigrayan rebels it is fighting in a gruesome, year-long war, a government spokeswoman said Tuesday. 

The dust-up highlights how both sides are trying to use social media to shape the narrative of the conflict between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group. 

"We have reason to believe that Twitter is targeting and suspending pro-Ethiopia voices that are raising awareness about the TPLF's atrocities and its lies," Abiy's spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said at a press conference. 

"We have shared this with their policy team, that 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." 

Billene later told AFP that "a formal complaint" was sent to Twitter

She did not specify which "pro-Ethiopia voices" were suspended. 

But neighboring Eritrea, which backed Abiy in the war, on Tuesday complained that Twitter suspended the New Africa Institute, a self-described think tank that routinely echoes Ethiopian and Eritrean government talking points concerning the war, and its executive director Simon Tesfamariam. 

Simon "deserves accolades, among others, for his meticulous research and balanced reports (New Africa Institute) to counter mainstream media disinformation stemming from political bias," Eritrean government spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel said on Twitter. 

"Twitter's suspension of his accounts is thus unwarranted & requires urgent review." 

A Twitter spokesperson said Simon's accounts were suspended for violations of rules "including our platform manipulation and spam policy."

"This includes the creation of multiple accounts to post duplicative content and create fake engagement, and the operation of fake accounts," the spokesperson said, adding that rules are enforced "objectively" and that Twitter is politically "neutral."

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