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NCIC: Facebook has seven days deadline to eliminate hate speech

Facebook has seven days to comply with NCIC's requirements on hate speech. [istockphoto]

National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has given Meta, the company that owns the social media platform Facebook seven days to comply with its requirements on hate speech.

Commissioner Danvas Makori said the platform has failed to comply with the Communication Act of Kenya, and NCIC Act on hate speech among other laws of the land.

Makori made the revelations even as they met Meta officials based in the country in April.

He said that NCIC in past meetings with Facebook agreed on working together towards the upcoming elections.

"In the meeting, they also agreed to follow the law on strategies agreed but they have done nothing till today, which has now prompted the seven days’ notice," said Makori.

These details emerged during the release of the Hate Speech on Facebook in Kenya report for July by Global Witness and Foxglove at the NCIC offices in Nairobi today.

The report faults the social media giant for failing to detect inflammatory and violent hate speech ads in the two official languages of Kiswahili and English.

The report released Friday however said that Meta claimed to have “super-efficient” Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to detect hate speech.

‘‘We are giving Meta time as per the requests sent to them to comply with them because they are in clear violation of the laws and rules of this country. If they do not comply within seven days from today to the requirements we sent to them, we shall recommend that they are suspended from this country of their operation until they comply,’’ said Makori.

He said the country is bigger than any politician or individual when it comes to politics and will not allow any social media company to jeopardize our security by becoming an instrument of incitement.

Mr Makori said, unlike Kenya, Facebook moderation in the United States and Europe is very robust and blamed Facebook for double standards in moderation.

The report also blames Meta for approving hate speech advertisements promoting ethnic violence and calling for rape, slaughter and beheading especially at this time the country is nearing General Elections slated for August 9.

‘‘It is appalling that Meta continues to approve hate speech advertisements that incite violence and fan ethnic tensions on its platform,’’ said Nieke Plastra, a senior campaigner in the Digital Threats to Democracy Campaign at Global Witness.

The report also said the social media company failed to do so in Ethiopia and Myanmar, where it detected haste speech advertisements, explicit Burmese and Amharic-language hate speech advertisements calling for violence and genocide in those countries.

This the report said, happened despite Meta's public commitments to do so and admission that Facebook has been used to incite violence.

According to the report, in total it submitted 20 advertisements to Meta, which covered the 10 real-life hate speech examples and their corresponding translation into Kiswahili or English.

Much to our surprise and concern, all hate speech examples in both languages were approved, with one exception; our English language hate speech advertisements were initially rejected for failing to comply with Facebook’s grammar and profanity policy. 

Facebook invited us to update the advertisements, and after making minor corrections, they were similarly accepted.

Seemingly our English advertisements had woken up their AI systems, but not for the reason we expected,’’ the report said.

It said all the advertisements it submitted violated Facebook’s community standards, qualifying as hate speech and ethnic-based calls to violence.

‘‘Much of the speech was dehumanising, comparing specific tribal groups to animals and calling for rape, slaughter and beheading,’’ said Jon Lloyd, senior advisor, Global Witness.

On monitoring hate speech, Mr Makori said they have a robust media unit that has been operating for quite some time.

They have 12 monitors watching over 16 TV and radio stations every day

‘‘Beginning today, we are setting up a special unit that will be housed at Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) to address this issue of Facebook,’’ he said.

He added that other social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, have been more responsive to their requests and even pulled down posts that seem to have hate speech in nature unlike Meta.

On WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta, he said it’s hard to know some of the hate speeches because they are enclosed groups and challenged Kenyans in those groups to report such hate speech messages, saying peace starts with us all.

‘‘So far we have 81 cases in court relating to misuse of social media by users and bloggers most of the reported by individuals,’’ he said.

He said this time round, they’ve seen a reduction of hate speech because politicians and individuals have migrated from physical hate speech exchange and in political rallies to use of social media using bloggers, especially with pseudo accounts.

‘‘One other thing is that the accounts are not based in the county but outside and it becomes hard to for instance to arrest someone spewing hate in Kenya in America due to jurisdiction issues,’’ he said.

Mr Makori also said it’s upon Meta to employ local monitors, who understand local dialects because some of the hate speeches in Kenya are in local languages, which is hard for it to detect because they rely on Kiswahili and English.