Kenya says social media won't be blocked after warning to Facebook


After warning on a possible suspension, the Kenyan government confirmed that Facebook would not be blocked in the country. — Unsplash

NAIROBI: Kenya insisted on July 30 that social media would not be blocked, after a state watchdog warned Facebook it risked suspension if it did not tackle hate speech on its platform.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said Friday it had given Facebook's parent Meta seven days to act following a report it allowed more than a dozen hateful political ads in the run-up to Kenya's August 9 election.

But Joe Mucheru, Kenya's minister of information, communications and technology, said on Twitter Saturday: "Media, including social media, will continue to enjoy press freedom in Kenya."

He said it was "not clear" what legal framework the NCIC planned to use to suspend Facebook, adding: "Govt is on record. We are NOT shutting down the Internet."

ALSO READ: Online disinformation stokes tensions as Kenya elections near

His comments were echoed by Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i who said Kenyans' right to free expression was enshrined in the constitution.

"And, we as a government, have no intention of infringing on that right."

The NCIC is an independent ethnic cohesion watchdog set up after the 2007-8 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.

It does not have the power to suspend Facebook but can make recommendations to the government's Communications Authority.

ALSO READ: Report accuses TikTok of spreading hate speech ahead of Kenya poll

The body's recommendations followed a report by advocacy group Global Witness and UK-based legal activist firm Foxglove that said Facebook had accepted and broadcast at least 19 ads in both English and Swahili calling for rape, slaughter and beheadings.

'Addressing errors'

Asked about the NCIC warning, a Meta spokesperson said: "We've taken extensive steps to help us catch hate speech and inflammatory content in Kenya, and we're intensifying these efforts ahead of the election.

"Despite these efforts, we know that there will be examples of things we miss or we take down in error, as both machines and people make mistakes. That's why we have teams closely monitoring the situation and addressing these errors as quickly as possible."

ALSO READ: Election influencers for hire: Kenya’s disinformation factories

With its diverse population and large ethnic voting blocs, Kenya has long suffered politically motivated communal violence around election time, often blamed on hate speech.

An undercover expose by UK media revealed that British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to target political ads and spread misinformation during Kenya's 2013 and 2017 presidential campaigns.

AFP is a partner of Meta, providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. – AFP

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!
   

Next In Tech News

Amazon down for thousands of users - Downdetector.com
ECB seeks urgent regulation after multiple crypto bubbles burst
EU court rejects WhatsApp challenge against EU Data Protection Board
Washington DC AG sues Amazon over driver tips
Mobileye beats revenue estimates in first quarterly report since IPO
French environmentalists file complaint against Apple for wasteful practices
Volkswagen to invest $482 million to make electric compact car at Wolfsburg
French watchdog orders Amazon to pay $3.5 million in penalties
Uber, Motional launch robotaxi service in Las Vegas
Swedish self-driving truck start-up Einride raises more cash

Others Also Read