HaqCheck observed that disinformation and the circulation of false information followed incidents.
There were major incidents that happened in the month of July and at the end of the month of June that triggered disinformation during the given month. False information circulated in the background of these events.
The major events that were followed by disinformation were; the massacre in Wollega in the month of June, the condominium lottery draw cancellation, the Al Shabaab attacks, the rumors on the whereabouts and safety of PM PM Abiy, and the academic dress worn by Tedros Adhanom.
haqCheck intercepted many false social media posts that were made in the context of these occurrences or just followed the incidents.
Some of the posts circulated amid such events and debunked by HaqCheck are presented in this summary.
Massacre in Wollega in the month of June
The massacre in the Wellega zone of Oromia regiona was reported in the previous month of June. However, the event was one of the main factors for the disinformation trend that surfaced during the month of July. Many related social media posts emerged in this framework. False information and images circulated on social media platforms falsely claiming old images to depict the massacre.
For instance, a Facebook page shared an image on Jul 14, captioned, “This baby is not the Rwandan Tutsi Immaculée [Immaculée Ilibagiza] … She is the Ethiopian Amhara Immaculée who survived to tell us what really happened. Abiy Ahmed and his group are killing people whom the world saved in the ‘We are the World’ campaign in 1985.”
Actually, the image is found out to be old and is of the Rwandan Tutsi genocide that happened in 1994. The image doesn’t show victims of the massacre in Wellega.
Condominium lottery draw results cancelation
The condominium lottery draw that was conducted on July 8, 2022 was later canceled due to alleged tech tampering issue. The event was followed by widespread controversies.
False claims emerged immediately after the draw. Among the viral controversies was that Muluken Haftu, former head of the City Administration’s Innovation and Technology Bureau, and Yasmin Wohabrebbi, head of the Housing Development Bureau were arrested in relation to the lottery draw fraud. The claim was later proven false.
Muluken Haftu was not arrested at the time. But on July 15, the Addis Ababa City Council revoked the immunity of its member, Mulukun Haftu in connection with alleged links with tech tampering by the city administration officials. He was taken into custody after the meeting on the same day.
Related to the incident, a false claim that Yonas Zewde, the head of the Communications Office of the Addis Ababa City Administration, resigned from his position because of widespread corruption within the current government followed.
However, the former communications head didn’t resign from his previous post and was just appointed to another position by the administration.
Al Shabaab attack on Ethiopian forces
At the end of the month of July, Al Shabaab opened attack on the security forces of the Ethiopian Somali region both in Somalian and in Ethiopian territories along the border of the two countries. Fighting then erupted between Al Shabaab militants and Somali regional special police forces.
The event was then accompanied by various false images claimed to be of the recent skirmishes between Somali regional forces and Al Shabaab militants.
One instance of these was an image-backed social media claim that Somali regional forces recently killed militants of AlShabaab in the Elekere woreda of the Somali Regional State.
Nevertheless, the image was taken from an old publication. It was first published on May 24, 2018, on a self-described independent news outlet in a short news story that heavy fighting erupted between Puntland and Somaliland forces in the Sool region of Somaliland.
Rumors on the whereabouts and safety of PM Abiy
There were various rumors circulating regarding the whereabouts and safety of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the month. These rumors fueled disinformation all over social media landscapes.
Many false and old images were shared with different claims. Some claimed that the Prime Minister is leading a military operation against insurgents in the southwestern parts of the country. Others claimed that he was ill and was being treated in a hospital.
The allegation was one of the major factors for massive social media disinformation.
Academic dress worn by Tedros Adhanom
There were false claims that the academic dress that was worn by Tedros Adhanom, Director of the World Health Organization when he received an honorary degree from Edinburg University represents the flag of Tigray Regional State.
Others shared images of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indian movie actor Sha Rukh Khan, and the football legend Pele all wearing the same academic dress claiming that it represents the Tigray regional flag. Such claims were viral across social media platforms.
However, the claims were false and honorary degree recipients of the University of Edinburgh wear the scarlet gown with a yellow velvet hood according to the university’s code of gown dressing.
Hashtag Campaign and Disinformation
HaqCheck observed hashtag posts sharing false images. Employing false images in hashtag campaigns trended during the month. Hashtag themes and phrases were accompanied by false and emotionally appealing images.
For example, a Twitter account shared two images with a text that the Amhara people had been targeted by the Ethiopian government. The tweet shared graphic images that show human dead bodies laid on the ground.
It was shared with a hashtag text #AmharaGenocide. But, one of the images was from Nigeria.
Faking Twitter handles
Another disinformation technique that was pointed out by HaqCheck in the month of July is faking Twitter handles. A Twitter handle was learned to be faked using deceptive methods.
Two twitter accounts seemingly with the same handles appeared. Having or sharing the same Twitter handle with others is never allowed on the platform and thus people may be misled and challenged to identify which one is the authentic account if the two have the same handles.
The two accounts seemingly have a handle @martinplaut. However, the other one was faked to look like the authentic account. The faked handle used the capital letter of ‘i’ that looked like the small letter of ‘L’.
This was a new trend observed just recently.
The government should not be the main agent of disinformation and controversy. The rumors regarding the whereabouts and safety of the Prime Minister caused massive disinformation.
The government should have given timely information regarding the allegations. Government bodies should offer the public timely and sufficient updates on state affairs.
Social media users are urged to be skeptical and should avoid conceiving and sharing unconfirmed claims.
People should pay critical attention to Twitter accounts and handles. They should cross check the authenticity of the handles too.