On July 29th, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) issued an order to Meta to curb hate speech and inciting ads on Facebook or risk a ban. This is close to Kenya’s presidential election slated for 9th August to prevent the electoral violence that has in previous times characterised its political landscape.
Davis Makori, Commissioner of NCIC reacted to a report by Global Witness, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) with focus on human rights.
The NGO revealed that despite Facebook’s claims to moderate its contents, it is failing to curb ethnic profiling and posts calling for genocide. Subsequently, NCIC gave Facebook a 7-day ultimatum to regulate its platforms.
Makori said, “We have written to Facebook and requested that they comply with the regulatory requirements we put across. If Facebook fails to do that, we will recommend that Facebook devices be suspended in Kenya. Facebook has 7 days to reply to us, failure to which we take the action of suspension immediately.”
Reactions to the planned censorship:
- The proposed ban has now sparked up debates as it is seen as a violation of freedom of speech. It has also been considered a backward approach to a problem by the Kenya Kwansa Alliance, a coalition of parties led by Deputy President, William Ruto.
- The Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i reacted, stating that the internet will not be shut down because of elections.
“We work in a democratic setup. We will not interfere with social media. We are not going to interfere with the internet just because of elections,” he declared.
Matiang’i is not the only one
- ICT Minister, Joe Mucheru has denounced the presupposed censorship, questioning NCIC’s legal right to take such a course.
“Media, including Social Media, will continue to enjoy press freedom in Kenya. Not clear what legal framework NCIC plans to use to suspend Facebook. Government is on record. We are not shutting down the internet,” Mucheru tweeted.
What is Meta doing?
Hate content is rife on Facebook in Kenya and though the communication giant stated in July that it had “been preparing for the country’s 2022 election over the past year,” it has grossly failed to moderate the contents put up on its platform.
- Mercy Ndegwa, Meta’s Director of Public Policy for East and Horn of Africa, said in a statement: “In the six months leading up to April 30, 2022, we took action on more than 37,000 pieces of content for violating our Hate Speech policies on Facebook and Instagram in Kenya.”
- Meta also said it had hired more content reviewers to review content across its apps in more than 70 languages — including Swahili, the major language in Kenya.
Facebook is unprepared to deal with this- Madung Odanga
Odanga Madung, Fellow, Mozilla Foundation and an independent data journalist who had previously written a report titled: ‘Disinformation on TikTok Gaslights Political Tensions Ahead of Kenya’s 2022 Elections’, also aired his dissatisfaction over Facebook’s non-compliance with hate speech regulations.
He said, “There is a systemic issue here at play and Facebook actually needs to very much take the power that the platform has very seriously and begin to actually invest in the right amount of moderation resources to deal with this kind of problem.”
It brings to question why Facebook left the job of cleaning up its platform to an NGO when it has all the data and resources to deal with the problem.
Why all the buzz about the election?
- President Uhuru Kenyatta in a turn of events leading to a transition in government threw in weight over the choice of the next president to Ralia Odinga who had been his political rival. By doing this, he boycotted his deputy, William Ruto who had also indicated interest in the presidential race. Needless to say, the political temperature has heated up once more in Kenya.
Previous election history:
- In 2007, Kenya recorded a Post Election Violence (PEV) that resulted in 1,133 casualties, at least 350,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
- In a bid to prevent another PEV, the NCIC was birthed to promote national identity and values, mitigate ethno-political competition and ethnically motivated violence.
In June, CrestHub reported that Tiktok had become a hotspot for
disinformation and was subsequently fueling violence. This was after the NCIC spokesperson, Samuel Kobia rated Facebook as no.1 in propagating disinformation and hate speech, having 80 percent of all flagged cases.
Can NCIC carry out the threat?
While doubts assail NCIC’s statement, the commissioner of the body, Davis Makori has further said that “Facebook has become a recruiting ground for extremists.”
For all that, the legal right of NCIC to embark on such a course remains in question. “This is an opinion which actually I can confirm here that we are not going to take,” Matiang’i said.