The Kenyan government won’t be shutting down Facebook despite threats by the national cohesion agency to suspend it.
The National integration and Cohesion Commission (NCIC) last week said it had written to Meta, the company that owns Facebook, demanding a response to allegations of weak controls in moderating content on its platform ahead of next month’s elections.
It threatened to suspend the company’s operations if it did not comply within seven days with the requirement to control the spread of hate speech in the country.
But the ICT minister questioned the legal framework the NCIC was using to recommend Facebook’s suspension.
“They (NCIC) should have consulted widely because they don’t have the power to shut anybody down. They don’t licence anybody,” Joe Mucheru is quoted by the Reuters new agency as saying.
Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i separately said the Kenyan government did not plan to clamp down on social media and distanced itself from the statement by NCIC.
“We as a government, have no intention of infringing on that right. Those who have expressed their opinions on the shutdown of social media have done it in a personal capacity”, he said.
A report by advocacy groups Global Witness and Foxglove last week found Facebook to have approved adverts promoting hate speech and incitement ahead of the elections.
Facebook responded by saying it had enhanced controls on their platforms to make it easy to identify and remove content that could lead to election-related violence.
It acknowledged that despite the efforts “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,” a Meta spokesperson said.
Four years ago, bosses at the now-defunct British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica were apparently caught on camera boasting of the control they had exerted in Kenya’s disputed 2017 presidential poll, and their company was accused of mining Kenyans’ personal data on Facebook to help President Uhuru Kenyatta win.