How Facebook in Ethiopia Became a Place to Fuel Violence

FILE - In this Saturday, May 1, 2021 file photo, a destroyed tank is seen by the side of the road south of Humera, in an area of western Tigray then annexed by the Amhara region during the ongoing conflict, in Ethiopia. Tigray forces say Ethiopia???s government has launched its threatened major military offensive against them in an attempt to end a nearly year-old war. A statement from the Tigray external affairs office on Monday, Oct. 11 alleged that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian ???regular and irregular fighters??? launched a coordinated assault on several fronts. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm on the company’s failure to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in “at risk” countries like Ethiopia, where a civil war has raged for the past year, internal documents seen by CNN show.

The social media giant ranks Ethiopia in its highest priority tier for countries at risk of conflict, but the documents reveal that Facebook’s moderation efforts were no match for the flood of inflammatory content on its platform.

The documents are among dozens of disclosures made to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel.

A consortium of 17 US news organizations, including CNN, has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress. They show employees warning managers about how Facebook was being used by “problematic actors,” including states and foreign organizations, to spread hate speech and content inciting violence in Ethiopia and other developing countries, where its user base is large and growing.

None of the revelations from the Facebook documents are news to activists and human rights groups, who have warned for years that the social media giant has made insufficient efforts to protect human rights in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country. [CNN]

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