(Amnesty International)―The Ethiopian government systematically and illegally blocked access to social media and news websites in its efforts to crush dissent and prevent reporting of attacks on protesters by security forces during the wave of protests that started in November 2015 and led up to the state of emergency, a new report released today shows.

Research conducted by Amnesty International and the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) between June and October 2016 shows that access to WhatsApp was blocked, as well as at least 16 news outlets.

“It’s clear that as far as the Ethiopian government is concerned, social media is a tool for extremists peddling bigotry and hate and therefore they are fully justified in blocking internet access. The reality, though, is very different. The widespread censorship has closed another space for Ethiopian’s to air the grievances that fueled the protests,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The internet blocking had no basis in law, and was another disproportionate and excessive response to the protests. This raises serious concerns that overly broad censorship will become institutionalized under the state of emergency.”

The report also found that the Ethiopian government uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology to filter access to websites. DPI is a technology that can be bought and deployed on any network. Though it has many legitimate functions, it can also enable monitoring and filtering of internet traffic. 

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“Our findings provide incontrovertible evidence of systematic interference with access to numerous websites belonging to independent news organizations and political opposition groups, as well as sites supporting freedom of expression and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights,” said Maria Xynou of OONI.

Continue reading this story on Amnesty International
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