Kenyan government downplays watchdog threat of Facebook closure

Kenyan government downplays watchdog threat of Facebook closure

It’s been a busy weekend for social media controversies in Kenya, as both Facebook and the government have scrambled to deal with bad news regarding alleged online hate speech.

The issue appears to have begun when advocacy group Global Witness accused Facebook of carrying more than a dozen political advertisements that breached Kenya's rules, something that was backed up by Kenya's National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), a statutory body established to foster ethnic harmony among Kenya's 45 ethnic groups.

According to Global Witness it tested Facebook’s ad system with 20 ads that featured hate speech – and they were all approved, allegedly undermining the credibility of the platform’s check system.

The NCIC told Facebook to tackle hate speech and incitement on the platform within seven days or be suspended. Not too surprisingly perhaps much of the alleged hate speech relates to next month's election.

Facebook owner Meta has insisted it is intensifying efforts to tackle hate speech ahead of the election, according to Reuters, and highlighted its dedicated teams of Swahili speakers and proactive detection technology.

However, within a few days, the government had assured the country that it would not block access to social media sites, citing a belief in freedom of the press, whether in traditional or online forms.

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