The Kenyan government is threatening to shut down Facebook if within a week it does not comply with requests sent by the National Commission for Cohesion and Integration (NCIC) to moderate hate speech content ahead of the 9 August elections.
The state agency said that Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has been reluctant to act to combat the spread of hate speech, propaganda and misinformation, increasing the risk of violence in the run-up to the elections. For this reason, the committee asked Facebook to urgently increase the number of content moderators in Kenya, to expand its capacity to cover content also expressed in indigenous languages, and to implement integrity systems to ‘mitigate the risk before, during and after the upcoming elections in Kenya’.
The Kenyan government’s action follows an investigative report by human rights organisation Global Witness, which revealed that Facebook approved several advertisements promoting hate speech in both English and Kiswahili.
Jon Lloyd, senior advisor to Global Witness, said Facebook approved content that violated its own policy and community standards, as it qualified as hate speech and calls for violence on an ethnic basis.
“Much of the speech was dehumanising, comparing specific tribal groups to animals and calling for rape, slaughter and beheading. We deliberately do not repeat the phrases used here because they are highly offensive,’ Lloyd said when presenting the findings to NCIC.
For his part, NCIC Chief Officer Danvas Makori said Facebook’s non-resolution to inappropriate content on its platform is a real violation of the Kenyan Constitution and threatens the country’s peace, especially during this election period.
‘Freedom of expression cannot be extended to propaganda, incitement to violence, incitement to hatred or advocacy of hatred,’ Makori said, ‘Facebook is violating our laws because it has allowed itself to be a medium of hatred, incitement, disinformation and information.
The Commission, according to national media reports, has already contacted Meta’s representatives in the country and informed them of the requirements that have not been met, whereupon it announced that the company’s operations in the country will be suspended until they are met.
For its part, the Kenyan subsidiary of the company that runs the social network said on Wednesday that it is already working to find a solution.