By Duncan Miriri
NAIROBI (Reuters) -Kenya’s ethnic cohesion watchdog has given Meta’s Facebook seven days to tackle hate speech and incitement on the platform relating to next month’s election, failing which its operations will be suspended.
East Africa’s biggest economy is in the throes of campaigning ahead of presidential, legislative and local authorities elections on Aug. 9.
Advocacy group Global Witness said in a report published on Thursday that Facebook had accepted and carried more than a dozen political advertisements that breached Kenya’s rules.
Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said the report corroborates its own internal findings.
“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,” Danvas Makori, an NCIC commissioner said on Friday.
Meta has taken “extensive steps” to weed out hate speech and inflammatory content, and it is intensifying those efforts ahead of the election, a company spokesperson told Reuters.
“We have dedicated teams of Swahili speakers and proactive detection technology to help us remove harmful content quickly and at scale,” the spokesperson said.
The NCIC has held talks with the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK), which regulates social media firms, and it will recommend the suspension of Meta’s operations, Makori said.
He accused Meta of violating Kenya’s constitution and laws governing hate speech and the use of social media platforms.
“This country is bigger than a social media company or an entity. We will not allow Facebook, or any other social media company, to jeopardise security,” he said.
Supporters of the leading presidential candidates, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto, have used social media platforms to praise their candidates, persuade others to join them or to accuse opposing sides of various misdeeds.
The NCIC is a statutory body established to foster ethnic harmony among Kenya’s 45 tribes, some of which have targeted each other during violence in past polls.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)