Facebook regularly provided illicit reports about its use of extremist propaganda to Ethiopia government

Facebook knew it was being used by extremists in Ethiopia to incite violence and did little to prevent the spread of hate speech. In fact, the social media giant only began to take steps…

Facebook regularly provided illicit reports about its use of extremist propaganda to Ethiopia government

Facebook knew it was being used by extremists in Ethiopia to incite violence and did little to prevent the spread of hate speech. In fact, the social media giant only began to take steps to curb the phenomenon after the official press agency of the Ethiopian government accused them of doing so, according to documents obtained by The Guardian, which was granted access to the company’s files.

“One consequence of the rapid rise of this mobile phone text-messaging-driven echo chamber is that it has encouraged many young people to think of their country as a battlefield in an endless conflict between different ethnic and religious groups,” wrote a senior employee at Facebook.

Facebook’s European Policy Manager, Oliver Henrich, provided an opinion poll of the disputed region of Oromia to several members of the East African country’s parliament, stating that the messaging service was used to incite violence and that the Ethiopian government should institute a “world-leading” policy to regulate the service, which is used by many of the country’s young people.

“This is a terrifying scenario and I find it hard to believe that it is in any way informed by the concerns and anxieties of the community itself,” Henrich wrote.

Facebook’s decision to publish the confidential documents, which are over four years old, was prompted by a string of reports from the Ethiopian government accusing the social media company of not responding to reports of “hate speech” being posted on the platform. A confidential letter sent to the Guardian from Ethiopia’s deputy minister of Information and Communications Technology suggests that the social media giant’s policy of not immediately removing flagged posts does not suit Ethiopia, which has historically suffered from pervasive social inequality, and is now under pressure from the government to take a tougher stance on social media. The country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, used Facebook to outline an aggressive plan to change the country’s economic course. The current policy means, however, that an offensive post shared on Facebook could go live five minutes after it is reported to the company, according to Henrich’s internal records. The Guardian was also granted access to the company’s record of taking down violations.

Facebook provided limited information about what it was doing about these reports, and said that it “cannot be forced to censor or take down content,” which goes against the company’s stated policy in its terms of service that “obscure, obscure, or obscure any content that violates our rules.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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