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Kenya gov’t vows to leave social media alone despite Facebook fracas

Kenya , 01 Aug 2022

Just days before Kenya’s general election on 9 August 2022, the government has assured the country that it will not block access to social media sites - despite an ongoing dispute between the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and Facebook.

The NCIC, a regulatory body established to focus on online content during and after the elections, has accused Facebook of promoting hate speech and misinformation.

The NCIC quoted a report by civil rights group Global Witness, which states that Facebook has done little to stop hate speech via advertising on its platform.

According to Global Witness it tested Facebook’s ad system with 20 ads that featured hate speech and they were all approved. The civil rights organisation argues this brings the social media platform’s check system into disrepute.

The organisation’s report states: “Much to our surprise and concern, all hate speech examples in both languages were approved, with one exception: our English language hate speech ads were initially rejected for failing to comply with Facebook’s Grammar and Profanity policy.”

“Facebook invited us to update the ads, and after making minor corrections they were similarly accepted. Seemingly our English ads had woken up their AI systems, but not for the reason we expected.”

The NCIC has given Facebook seven days to implement measures to stop hate speech content from being published on its platform failing which it would be blocked.

However, the government has said it will not interfere with Facebook or any other social media site during the 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 the elections,” said Fred Matiang’i, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.

In response to the NCIC and Global Witness, Facebook said it will have experts on the ground to monitor and curb any content that violates its guidelines.

The social media platform added: “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. During that same period, we also took action on more than 42,000 pieces of content that violated our Violence & Incitement policies.”

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