Kenya: CS Mucheru Says NCIC Has No Legal Framework to Suspend Facebook

Nairobi — Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has hit out at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) over its planned move to recommend the suspension of Facebook in the country over its noncompliance to hate speech regulations on its platform.

The peace-building agency on Friday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the social media giant to clean up hate speech on its platform or risk suspension.

Mucheru however, weighed in on the matter on Saturday reminding the Samuel Kobia-led agency that "media, including social media, will continue to enjoy press freedom in Kenya".

He reiterated that the government "is on record. We are NOT shutting down the Internet".

The Commission issued the notice on the backdrop of a report released by Global Witness - an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) - that revealed the Mark Zuckerberg platform had failed to regulate Kenya's hate speech content in the country ahead of the August high-stake polls.

"From the report, it is very clear that Facebook is in violation of the laws of our country. They have allowed themselves to be a vector of hate speech and incitement, misinformation, and disinformation," NCIC Commissioner Danvas Makori said adding that the Commission had sent recommendations to Facebook.

The report by Global Witness and UK-based legal activist firm Foxglove found that Facebook carried content on its platform of at least 19 ads calling for rape, slaughter, and beheadings in both English and Swahili languages.

Commissioner Makori noted that failure by Facebook to comply, it will recommend to the Communications Authority (CA) to have Facebook suspended in the country.

"It is clear that their pursuit for profit supersedes their responsibility as far as peace and security is concerned in our country," Commissioner Makori said.

Makori also faulted the platform's reluctance to spearhead peace messages ahead of the August polls "yet they allow hate speech, incitement on their platform".

He regretted that the platform was discriminatory in regulating hate speech content in Africa.

"The hate speech moderation in the USA and Europe is very robust. There is a double standard to their moderation and self-policing.

81 social media users' the majority of whom are bloggers are already in court facing hate speech charges.

The Global Witness report has asked Facebook to urgently increase the content moderation capabilities and integrity systems deployed to mitigate risk before, during, and after the upcoming Kenyan election.

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

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