Facebook removes scores of Ethiopian pages linked to network founded by Abiy Ahmed in crackdown on misinformation

Facebook announced Wednesday that it removed a network of pages, accounts, and groups linked to Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency, founded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, for coordinated inauthentic behavior.

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In total, 65 Facebook accounts, 52 pages, 27 groups, and 32 Instagram accounts were removed. About 1.1 million accounts followed one or more of these pages and roughly 766,000 accounts were members of one or more of these groups.

Facebook found that the network used duplicate and fake accounts to post and comment on its own content. The operation increased activity in 2020 and 2021, with some of its content being “rated false by independent fact-checkers and labeled as misleading.”

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“This network posted primarily in Amharic about news and current events in Ethiopia, including the Prosperity party, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and criticism of Egypt and Sudan related to Ethiopia’s mega dam project,” said the statement from Facebook.

“They also posted critical commentary about various opposition politicians and groups in Ethiopia, including Oromo Liberation Front, Ethiopian Democratic Party, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front among others. Most recently, they commented about protests against the US sanctions on Ethiopia,” reported Facebook.

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Facebook’s decision to crack down on such activities is a response to behavior that violates its community standards regarding coordinated inauthentic behavior, particularly regarding falsified accounts and behavior as well as misinformation. 

“Although the people behind it attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with INSA, the Information Network Security Agency in Ethiopia,” concluded Facebook.

The Information Network Security Agency, founded by Abiy Ahmed, was created with the intention of monitoring dissent and now lists its mission as “to protect the national interest through building a capability that enables safeguard the country’s information and information infrastructures.”

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