The best and worst of times: The paradox of social media and Ethiopian politics


  • Steven Lloyd Wilson Brandeis University
  • Staffan Lindberg University of Gothenberg
  • Kjetil Tronvoll Oslo Analytica


Social Media, Politics, Ethiopia, Democracy


Ethiopia presents an intriguing case of dichotomies with regard to new communications technologies. It has among the lowest rates of Internet penetration in the world, while also showcasing an opposition and diaspora that has leveraged social media and the Internet to significant political effect. One of the poorest countries in the world, its government has nonetheless built up one of the more sophisticated Internet surveillance states, with demonstrated capabilities far beyond those of similarly resource-constrained states. With the opening to democratic politics in the last three years, and the critical elections in 2021 representing a potential turning point for this state, understanding the role of social media in Ethiopian politics is critical. This article describes the current state of new communications technologies in Ethiopia, examines technical capacity both from the perspective of population and government, and discusses the role that social media will play in the aftermath of the divisive 2021 elections.

Author Biographies

Steven Lloyd Wilson, Brandeis University

Assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University and project manager for the Varieties of Democracy Institute

Staffan Lindberg, University of Gothenberg

Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenberg

Kjetil Tronvoll, Oslo Analytica

Director of Oslo Analytica, as well as professor and research director of Peace and Conflict Studies at Bjorknes Univesity College




How to Cite

Wilson, S. L., Lindberg, S., & Tronvoll, K. (2021). The best and worst of times: The paradox of social media and Ethiopian politics. First Monday, 26(10). Retrieved from