Meta ‘Enhances Safety Measures to Protect People in Ethiopia’

ADDIS ABABA – Meta, the parent organization of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, said it has enhanced safety measures on its platforms to help keep Ethiopians safe both online and offline.

Less than 10 percent of the second populous nation in Africa are currently using the Facebook platform, according to the U.S. tech firm.

Commenting about the strategy, Meta Public Policy Director East Africa, Mercy Ndegwa said Ethiopia has been one of the company’s highest priorities for country-specific interventions to keep people safe given the risk of conflict.

“Recent events have focused the world’s attention on the conflict in Ethiopia,” Ndegwa said. “Our thoughts are with the people of Ethiopia, both in the country and in the diaspora, during this difficult time.”

The policy director also claimed the company invested in safety and security measures in Ethiopia for more than two years.

Meta moved Ethiopia to the category of countries that the company believes are at the highest risk for conflict and violence two years ago,

It enabled Meta to develop “both proactive solutions that we can implement when crises arise, and a long-term strategy to keep people safe”, the company said in a statement.

‘Threefold focus’

Meta said its focus now is threefold involving removing content that violates its policies, respecting people’s right to free expression, and helping to keep people safe both online and offline, according to the statement.

According to Meta, Ethiopia is an especially challenging environment to address these issues, in part because there are many local languages spoken in the country.

Over the past two years, Meta has significantly improved its reporting and enforcement tools, it said.

“We can now review content in the top four languages spoken and those central to the conflict (Amharic, Oromo, Somali, Tigrinya),” the company said.

“We also have technology to identify hate speech in Amharic and Oromo before anyone reports it to us,” it added.

These efforts, Meta said, are industry-leading.

Between May and October 2021, Meta took action on more than 92,000 pieces of content in Ethiopia on Facebook and Instagram for violations of our Community Standards prohibiting hate speech/

“About 98% of which was detected before it was reported by users to us,” the company said.

In June 2021, Meta also removed a network of fake accounts posting critical commentary of opposition politicians/groups in Amharic.

The people behind these posts, it said, used coordinated, inauthentic accounts as a central part of their efforts to mislead people about who they were and what they were up to.

In March alone, “we removed accounts in Egypt that targeted Ethiopia, Sudan, and Turkey”, it added.

Prior to the 2021 national elections, Meta also adopted additional safety measures to reduce potential violating content by adopting new Classification and new Designations, improving its hate speech enforcement effort, and others

Now, Meta’s teams are working around the clock and “we’ve activated our Integrity Operation Center – bringing together subject matter experts from across the company to respond in real time to problems and abuses”, reads the statement.

New safety measures

Given the rapidly evolving situation, the company said it has taken additional steps in recent days, which includes the launch of a new safety feature called Lock Profile.

The feature allows people to restrict anyone who isn’t their friend from downloading, enlarging, or sharing their profile photo, the company said.

It also prevents non-friends from seeing posts or other photos on their timeline, regardless of when they may have posted it.

“Since we recognize that local context and language-specific expertise is essential for this work, we will remain in close communication with people on the ground, along with partner institutions and non-governmental organizations as the days and weeks progress. added the Public Policy Director East Africa.

“This will help us take the right actions and make the right calls. We remain vigilant to emerging trends and stand ready to take additional action to meet the demands of this ongoing human rights situation.”, Ndegwa added.




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