The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea has disclosed through its Facebook page the results of an investigation conducted by Harvard University entitled “Collection on Media Manipulation”, which devoted part of its work to the intense flow of information related to the conflict in Tigray.
According to the study conducted by the American university, the level of misinformation on social media regarding the conflict in Tigray is extremely high, with responsibility of all parties involved. In particular, however, the system of social information traceable to the government of Eritrea would have played a prominent role in an attempt to delegitimize reports of war crimes committed by its forces in northern Tigray, and especially the massacre conducted in the city of Axum in November 2020.
The Ethiopian justice itself, according to the report, did not consider it appropriate to deny the evidence of the violence committed in the city, while trying to alleviate the responsibilities of both Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.
On the contrary, the network of Twitter and Facebook profiles directly traceable to the control of the Eritrean government would have systematically tried to discredit the sources of the investigation and the credibility of Amnesty International’s report, flooding the network with comments and messages built according to the narrative line of Asmara.
Pro-government Eritrean accounts relaunched a version of events built on the TPLF’s attempt to influence the media through the participation of its own members in the process of gathering and processing information collected by Amnesty International, while a collateral delegitimization campaign was launched through the use of hashtags such as #FakeAxumMassacre and #AmnestyUsedTPLFSources.
According to Harvard’s report, despite having fewer Tweets than Tigray’s information sources, accounts traceable to the Eritrean government tend to have more followers, and are therefore able to reach a larger audience with fewer tweets.
Particularly active in relaunching information constructed as part of social media campaigns appears to be Eritrea’s Ministry of Information, where Minister Yemane Meskel’s own account is used daily to delegitimize opposing voices.
Particularly serious, according to Harvard researchers, is the attempt of the Ethiopian and Eritrean government to attribute to a false priest the revelations of the Axum massacre, then delegitimizing all other witnesses as mere exponents of the TPLF.
Finally, according to the study, most of the social platforms supporting Ethiopia and the government of Abiy Ahmed are actually run directly by Eritreans, in most cases directly linked to the support network of the ruling Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) party, both within the country and within the US and European diaspora.