When answers to university exams were posted online, the Ethiopian government responded by blocking access to social media.
Tiksa Negeri/Reuters View Caption
(CSMonitor) — Ethiopians are experiencing a government-imposed social media blackout supposedly targeted at distracted students.
After a massive online leak of university entrance exam questions forced the nationwide tests to be cancelled, Ethiopia’s government cracked down in a big way, blocking access to social media during the exam retake. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Viber were inaccessible starting Saturday morning.
“It’s a temporary measure until Wednesday. Social media have proven to be a distraction for students,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told the BBC. But many Ethiopians are wary of the implications of this move coming from a government that has a track record of silencing oppositional voices on the internet.
“This is a dangerous precedent. There is no transparency about who took the decision and for how long. This time it is for a few days, but next time it might be for a month,” Daniel Berhane, the prominent blogger behind the website “Horn Affairs” told AFP. Berhane believes that the Ethiopian authorities are testing new internet filtering tools and gauging the reaction of the public.
Deji Olukotun, senior global advocacy manager at Access Now, told Quartz Africa that a nationwide block of social media because of leaked questions is “completely disproportionate” as “shutdowns like this impact broader society as a whole – businesses lose a lot of money, journalists can’t report the news and it creates a culture of impunity.”