Mechachal: Online Debates and Elections in Ethiopia. Report Two: Discussing Politics and History in Social Media

61 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2016

See all articles by Iginio Gagliardone

Iginio Gagliardone

University of Oxford; University of the Witwatersrand

Matti Pohjonen

University of Oxford

Abdissa Zerai

Addis Ababa University

Zenebe Beyene

Addis Ababa University

Gerawork Aynekulu

University of Belgrade, Students

Jonathan Bright

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Mesfin Bekalu

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Michael Seifu

Independent

Mulatu Alemayehu Moges

Addis Ababa University - School of Journalism and Communication

Nicole Stremlau

University of Oxford

Patricia Taflan

University of Oxford

Tewodros Gebrewolde

University of Leicester

Zelalem Teferra

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

Date Written: December 10, 2015

Abstract

The working paper examines how social media have been used in the build up of the 2015 elections, highlighting how different parties, as well as the general public, have engaged in electoral politics online. Contrary to expectations, and to what had been the case in other electoral contests in Africa, as the voting day drew nearer, the tone of the debate became less, rather than more, antagonistic. This result may also be due to the little expectations the elections would have brought any significant change in the political landscape.

The second part of the paper explores how an historical event, the Battle of Adwa fought in 1896 against the Italian invasion, and which became a symbol of African resistance against colonialism, was remembered and discussed in social media. The analysis highlights the deep-rooted tensions and antagonism in a multi-ethnic society. Adwa triggered the reactivation of fault-lines such as the divide between Northerners and Southerners, as well as between Amharas and Tigrayans. While antagonistic statements remained a minority, their proportion increased, when compared with average conversations on Facebook. Also, despite that Facebook allows for a plurality of voices to coexist, this does not appear to have led to greater efforts towards understanding competing claims and interpretations. On the contrary, historical memory was often bent to serve existing ideological positions.

Keywords: Hate speech, Social media, Internet, Elections, Freedom of Expression, Africa, Ethiopia, Colonialism

Suggested Citation

Gagliardone, Iginio and Pohjonen, Matti and Zerai, Abdissa and Beyene, Zenebe and Aynekulu, Gerawork and Bright, Jonathan and Bekalu, Mesfin and Seifu, Michael and Moges, Mulatu Alemayehu and Stremlau, Nicole and Taflan, Patricia and Gebrewolde, Tewodros and Teferra, Zelalem, Mechachal: Online Debates and Elections in Ethiopia. Report Two: Discussing Politics and History in Social Media (December 10, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2782077 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2782077

Iginio Gagliardone (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

University of the Witwatersrand ( email )

1 Jan Smuts Avenue
Johannesburg, GA Gauteng 2000
South Africa

Matti Pohjonen

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Abdissa Zerai

Addis Ababa University ( email )

King George VI St
Addis Ababa, 1000
Ethiopia

Zenebe Beyene

Addis Ababa University ( email )

King George VI St
Addis Ababa, 1000
Ethiopia

Gerawork Aynekulu

University of Belgrade, Students ( email )

Studentski trg 1
Belgrade
Serbia

Jonathan Bright

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Mesfin Bekalu

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02115
United States

Michael Seifu

Independent ( email )

Mulatu Alemayehu Moges

Addis Ababa University - School of Journalism and Communication ( email )

Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa, 1179

Nicole Stremlau

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Patricia Taflan

University of Oxford

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Tewodros Gebrewolde

University of Leicester ( email )

University Road
Leicester, LE1 7RH
United Kingdom

Zelalem Teferra

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ( email )

Mwalimu Julius Neyerere Conservation Park
Arusha, Arusha
Tanzania

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
80
Abstract Views
716
rank
438,184
PlumX Metrics