Access to social networks blocked to avert exam fraud

Ethiopia’s government has blocked access to social networks throughout the country, an unprecedented measure it has justified by the need to prevent fraud during the period of university exams. But internet users have suggested the government is experimenting with new software filters to cut off political protesters.

From 9 to 13 July it was impossible to log on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in Ethiopia, to prevent leaks of subjects that had forced cancellation of exams in June, reported Radio France Internationale or RFI.

RFI said the internet in Ethiopia was already strictly controlled, but the social networks had never been blocked nationwide in this way.

But internet users rapidly responded to the cut-off by using virtual private networks, reported RFI, and many condemned the move as unjustified – with some suggesting that government was testing new software filters which could be useful during political troubles, such as those that have occurred in recent months in the Oromia region.

In June, RFI reported on an inquiry published by Human Rights Watch which detailed violent repression of students in the Oromia region. It said 400 people had been killed by security forces since November and “tens of thousands of arrests” had been made.

Human Rights Watch said it had identified by name more than 300 dead, most of them students, reported RFI.

The students were protesting against urban expansion of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, which would expropriate farms and, they claimed, restrict rights of the Oromo community.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.