The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has given social media platform, Facebook seven days to comply with regulations ahead of the August 9 polls. According to the watchdog, the Meta-owned company has been in violation of stipulated regulations even as the country prepares for the general elections.
A report by Advocacy group Global Witness and Foxglove published a report on Monday saying Facebook had run several political advertisements that are in contravention of the country’s ethnic cohesion rules.
The two non-profit organizations reportedly submitted ads to Facebook in both English and Swahili to see if they would pass the test. The ads spoke of beheadings, rape and bloodshed, while some compared people to donkeys and goats. Others went as far as containing profanity and grammatical errors. Surprisingly, the ads in Swahili easily made it through the company’s detection system and were approved for publication.
Some of the English ads were rejected at first due to the profanities and errors. Once they were fixed, the ads passed the detection test despite their messages calling for killings and containing obvious hate speech.
“We were surprised to see that our ads had for the first time been flagged, but they hadn’t been flagged for the much more important reasons that we expected them to be,” said Nienke Palstra, senior campaigner at London-based Global Witness.
Although they were approved, the firms did not run the ads on Facebook. However, the apparent laxity by Facebook shows that any other serious contender could very easily run hate speech and inciteful ads on the app.
Meta shared a comprehensive blog on July 20, detailing its preparedness for the upcoming general election. Among the measures the platform highlighted included the creation of an operations centre and removal of offensive material.
“In the six months leading up to April 30, 2022, we took action on more than 37,000 pieces of content for violating our Hate Speech policies on Facebook and Instagram in Kenya. During that same period, we also took action on more than 42,000 pieces of content that violated our Violence & Incitement policies,” wrote Mercy Ndegwa, director of public policy in East & Horn of Africa.
Shortly after the post, Global Witness resubmitted two ads, one in English and Swahili, to test the stricter detection systems, but the ads still went through.
“If you’re not catching these 20 ads, this 37,000 number that you are celebrating, that is probably the tip of the iceberg. You have to think that there’s a lot that’s (slipping through) your filter,” Palstra said.
Meta now has seven days with to comply with the regulations, or face suspension, according to the NCIC. The company’s Kenya office has not responded to the ultimatum.