Claims related to detention and editing old posts
Throughout the week, there were claims and controversies on Ethiopian social media over the detention of ethnic Amharas across various parts of the country. Images circulated on social media with claims that they showed recently detained ethnic Amharas, but HaqCheck could not confirm whether the images were true or false.
In this context, HaqCheck has observed a new disinformation tactic in the Ethiopian social media landscape: editing old Facebook posts to mislead people.
On September 13, 2023, a Facebook post shared four images, claiming that the people in the photos were ethnic Amharas detained by the government in Tulu Dimtu, a town near Addis Ababa. The post also alleged that they were suffering and dying from contagious diseases in the camp.
The post went viral and gained traction on social media platforms. However, HaqCheck could not confirm whether the post was true or false. We could not confirm the origin and authenticity of the images presented to support the claim.
Some pro-government social media accounts shared a screenshot of a Facebook post that had been edited to show that the images were posted a year ago, unrelated to the claim of government detention of ethnic Amharas. They presented this as evidence to disprove the claim, suggesting that the images were false.
HaqCheck checked the images and Facebook posts to see if they had been posted before and found that a Facebook post from June 29, 2022, contained the same images with an Amharic caption.
However, the old Facebook post was recently edited to add the images and change the caption. The original post, made on June 29, 2022, was in Afaan Oromo and compared five assassinated figures: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, and Hachalu Hundessa. The original post had only one image, which HaqCheck could not see because it had been replaced.
On September 13, 2023, the post was edited to change the text to Amharic and add five new images. The edited caption now claims that the Addis Ababa City administration is providing medical services to over a hundred homeless people.
One way that disinformation is spread on social media is through edited old posts. Social media users should be cautious of editing old posts, as they can be used to spread disinformation. They should check the edit history of posts.
Social media users should be skeptical of controversial information circulating on social media. They should get their news from reliable sources and verify information before sharing it.
The government and other organizations should be transparent and provide timely updates to the public. Lack of information prompts false information dissemination. The government should guarantee the right of citizens and the media to access information freely and securely. This includes the right to access government records and report on sensitive topics.