Why it Matters
Big tech companies operating platforms like Google, Facebook (Meta), Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and You Tube are a welcome addition to Kenya’s information space. While a majority of Kenyans have embraced social media for good, there is growing evidence of big tech harms which manifest on the platforms – like attacks on women, more so those aspiring for elected office, attack on gender rights, disinformation on COVID-19, SRHR, online extremist content, scams on harmful products where many people are exposed to adverse side effects and scams where people lose money; hate speech and misogyny. All these go against the platforms’ own established terms of service and content moderation practices. It is time for big tech to be accountable for these harms in Kenya and Africa in general, and provide the same level of duty of care it shows in other markets, especially Europe and the US. Why the double standards?
The Council for Responsible Social Media (in Kenya) brings together eminent leaders from different sectors of Kenyan society – from CSOs, data and tech, governance, peace and security, business, health and media – who will lead the conversation on big tech harm in Kenya and how to ensure platforms are held accountable to minimize online harm and make them safer for all. They work together with government regulators like Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) and National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and relevant state departments by offering expertise, skills and knowledge and bridging the existing gaps in regulatory frameworks that enhance their ability to discharge their mandates and hold big tech more accountable, including advocating for a Code of Conduct/Practice for big tech companies. The Council will also spearhead lobbying efforts with Kenyan Parliament to domesticate international legislation like the Digital Services Act (DSA) operational in Europe and soon to be introduced in the US, to ensure greater platform accountability and standardization of business and content moderation practices worldwide.
Our Statement/Our Stand/What Kenyans Want
The Council for Responsible Social Media is a nonpartisan group of concerned citizens, eminent leaders and civil society organizations coming together to hold social media platforms accountable to the commitments of their own terms of service.
We are profoundly alarmed about the recent findings from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) that Facebook/Meta failed to stop the spread of hateful terrorist content in East Africa. It was revealed that known terrorist organizations have created a highly coordinated network to promote online propaganda and target Kenyans with extremist content, attempting to radicalise our youth and spread harmful narratives that undermine our elections, with specific calls to take up guns and reject human rights and democracy.
This disturbing content violates Facebook/Meta’s own terms of service and paints a vivid and grim picture of massive failure by Facebook to regulate harmful content contrary to their own safeguarding and content moderation policies. These companies prioritize content moderation in English, but they are woefully underserved when it comes to vetting mis and disinformation in African languages. The time for change is now.
Social media platforms are failing Kenyans. It’s time that social media platforms paid more attention to Kenya and put adequate policies in place and invested properly in platform safety. Kenyan authorities and regulators must prevent companies from profiting from harms and be more accountable and transparent.
We call on the ICT Ministry and Communications Authority of Kenya to actively encourage companies to develop and publicly sign a self-regulatory Code of Practice on Disinformation. The Code should contain explicit public commitments to take down illegal, malicious and hateful content and actively mitigate the risks of disinformation, and perhaps most importantly, make data available to independent researchers to verify that the Code of Practice is being enforced by the companies.
The Council for Responsible Social Media is committed to protecting our digital democracy, decency, and dignity.
We are standing up to big tech companies.
Stand with us.