The settlement of the war lowered the disinformation dissemination rate
The phenomenal event that changed the course of the disinformation trend that had been in place for the last two years was the settlement of the war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government at the beginning of the month.
The parties signed an ‘Agreement for lasting peace through a permanent cessation of hostilities between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’ in South Africa on Nov 2, 2022.
Before the signing of the peace agreement to resolve the two years war, the overwhelming majority of the false social media claims were related to the war. Seemingly organized groups had been orchestrating social media campaigns circulating false information.
The belligerents and affiliated entities had manufactured disinforming and toxic propaganda outputs. These propaganda outputs prompted false social media posts.
The disinformation trend was significantly decreasing immediately after the peace pact was stroke in Pretoria.
Later on, the issue of false information transitioned from the war in the northern parts of the country to other different issues such as armed conflict and violence in Oromia.
New issues dominated the course of the disinformation trend
Few false claims related to the war in Tigray appeared, despite the main topics of false information being other that the armed conflict.
Since a peaceful settlement was reached to the armed conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government other issues or topics of information disorder emerged.
HaqCheck observed three main topics of information disorder during the month. They were false claims regarding the alleged satellite town to be built in Addis Ababa, an ongoing armed conflict and violence in Wollaga, and post-war situations in the Tigray regional state.
False images of the alleged to-be-built satellite town
There were reports that the Ethiopian government was planning the construction of a new palace with one billion US dollars. During a parliamentary session on Nov 15, 2022, Prime Minister Abiy (PhD) confirmed that his government was constructing a modern satellite town that will cost billions of dollars.
False images of the design of the alleged satellite town were shared on social media platforms and virally circulated.
The images were old and taken from other places.
Armed conflict and violence in Wollega
As soon as the war in Tigray ended with the peace deal, social media posts related to conflicts and violence in Oromia started popping up.
Such social media posts were not new. HaqCheck had been debunking false claims regarding conflict and violence in the region. But the attention that had been given to the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government seems to shift to conflicts and attacks in Ormia, particularly Wollega.
Reports indicated that there had been armed conflict and attacks on civilians in Wollaga.
Granted this, false images were circulating on the Ethiopian social media landscape to support claims that recent government aerial and ground attacks targeted civilians in Wollega, Oromia.
Post-war situations in Tigray
HaqCheck came across a few social media claims regarding ongoing post-war situations in Tigray such as a public protest in Mekelle, TPLF hiding firearms, and TPLF combatants begun surrendering their weapons. These claims were accompanied by false images.
The peace agreement signed between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government asserts that the TPLF shall disarm and demobilize its armed combatants.
In this context, two social media posts supported by false images emerged. Four false images were shared on Facebook claiming that the TPLF was burying [hiding] weapons and ammunition.
The other debunked claim related to the issues was that a Tweet containing four images was made alleging TPLF militants in Maytsemri surrendered their weapons to local authorities and gathered in temporary camps.
However, the images presented to back the claim were old and taken from publications made two years ago.
A claim was also made on Twitter on Nov 20, 2022, sharing three false images alleging that Mekelle residents protested against [TPLF] armed forces for hindering the delivery of food aid to the city.
Change and consistency in the information disorder trend
HaqCheck figured out a change and continuity in the course of information disorder across the Ethiopian social media landscape.
The visible change we observed is that the main issue, the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government which was behind the disinformation trend is no longer the major topic. The issues of information disorder are now diversified.
HaqCheck spotted two continuity in the trend. One consistency was the application of false images. All the false claims HaqCheck debunked during the month of November were accompanied by images.
Besides, Facebook and Twitter continue to be the dominant pipelines of false claims. The two social media platforms, particularly the former, were the main grounds for false-image-backed information dissemination. All the false claims across-checked by HaqCheck in November were found on these platforms.
HaqCheck recommends social media users be skeptical of misleading and controversial information. They should look for original sources and additional details regarding potentially false claims.
Public authorities and other bodies should offer timely information about ongoing issues. Disinformation dissemination aggravates where information is limited.
Social media content creators are advised to be responsible and avoid circulating false information. They are one of the main factors for disinformation dissemination at a large scale.
Open access to information would greatly improve the availability of sufficient and accurate information reducing disinformation in the process. Governmental and non-governmental agencies should work towards the realization of the right to access information.