Meta Fueled Violence in Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict, Amnesty International Reports
11:25 01.11.2023 (Updated: 12:19 01.11.2023)
US-based Meta* potentially has a multimillion-dollar audience in Ethiopia, largely since Facebook is the primary source of information and a trusted news source for many Ethiopians, according to Amnesty International.
Facebook's parent company, Meta, has been accused by Amnesty International, a human rights group, of exacerbating violence in the brutal two-year conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.
According to the group, the social network's algorithms greatly contributed to the escalation of hate speech, and the company failed to effectively tackle the widespread dissemination of this problematic content.
"Facebook’s algorithmic systems supercharged the spread of harmful rhetoric targeting the Tigrayan community, while the platform’s content moderation systems failed to detect and respond appropriately to such content," the human rights group stressed.
The report cited the case of Tigrayan university chemistry Professor Meareg Amare, who was murdered by a group of men after posts targeting him were published on Facebook
"The Facebook posts contained his name, photo, place of work, house address and claimed that he was a supporter of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, accusing him of stealing large sums of money. These allegations were denied by his family," Amnesty noted.
The mass distribution of such and other malicious content incited hatred and discrimination against the Tigrayan community, "pouring fuel on what was already an inflamed situation with significant ethnic tensions," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary General.
In addition, the NGO revealed, citing internal Meta documents
, that the tech giant was aware of the inadequacies of its mitigation efforts in Ethiopia.
This isn't the first time Facebook has been accused of allowing inflammatory posts to spread. It is currently facing a lawsuit from two Ethiopian plaintiffs seeking more than $1.5 billion in damages for failing to take action against malicious content.
In 2021, a similar lawsuit was filed against Meta for posts that incited violence during the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Amnesty International emphasized that, in regard to this matter, Meta has failed to learn from its failures in Myanmar three years ago and has contributed to serious human rights abuses in Ethiopia.
Since November 2020, Ethiopia has been engulfed in a fierce internal conflict as the Tigray People's Liberation Front launched a series of attacks on the country's national military bases. In response, the federal government launched an offensive in the northern region.
In November 2022, the Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan rebels reached a peace agreement, ending two years of armed conflict.
*Meta and its products Facebook and Instagram banned in Russia for extremist activities.