A recent BBC probe has unearthed a troubling reality in Ethiopia: individuals who voice criticism or opposition to the government are systematically targeted by the ruling Prosperity Party's 'social media army.'

This specialized group not only disseminates false information across platforms like Facebook but also engages in what could be categorized as 'hate speech,' significantly skewing public discourse.

The investigation sheds light on the active involvement of Addis Ababa city administration district leaders in orchestrating misleading campaigns on Facebook. These campaigns aim to artificially bolster the government's image, orchestrated by the party's district structures. The BBC's report features interviews with district leaders, party members, communication officers, and experts, providing a comprehensive overview of this disturbing phenomenon.

Operating within seven sub-cities of Addis Ababa, the party's district structures coordinate social media campaigns via WhatsApp and Telegram groups. The BBC monitored these groups, documenting directives issued to district leaders and media army members, as well as their implementation. Additionally, Facebook data was analyzed to corroborate findings.

In response to the investigation, Meta, Facebook's parent company, acknowledged receiving reports of "fake accounts" and "an influx of positive comments" on Ethiopian government posts. Meta reported taking action against the fake accounts and pages involved, including those monitored by the BBC, which have since been removed.

However, the Prosperity Party tried to refute the allegations, denying the existence of a "media army" in its written response to the BBC.

The three-month investigation culminated in a detailed report compiled in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. While Ethiopians commend BBC correspondent Amanuel Yelekal (አማኑኤል ይልቃል) for his outstanding work, Concerned Ethiopians express the need for an English version of the report must be published, to reach a broader audience and influential organizations.

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