NAIROBI, Kenya, July 30 – Home Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi has claimed the government will not shut down the internet before, during and after the August general election.
Matiangi gave the assurance on Saturday amid rhetoric generated by the National Cohesion and Inclusion Commission (NCIC) which on Friday threatened to recommend Facebook’s suspension for failing to comply with hate speech regulations.
“The position of the government is very clear, we will respect the Constitution, respect all the rights of our people. We will not encroach on or interfere with the freedoms of our people,” Matiangi told Kisii.
The peacebuilding agency has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the social media giant to clean up hate speech on its platform or risk suspension.
Commissioner Danvas Makori issued the ultimatum on behalf of the Commission, but Matiangi dismissed his sentiments as “personal opinion and not official policy”.
Matiangi pointed out that the Cabinet has never had the idea of infringing on the rights of Kenyans.
“It was his opinion that I can confirm that we are not going to take or listen to. We are a mature government and we will not shut down social media or the internet,” Matinagi said.
Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru also rejected the INCC’s position on Saturday, noting that “the media, including social media, will continue to enjoy press freedom in Kenya.”
He reiterated that the government “is aware. We are NOT shutting down the internet.”
The NCIC is an independent ethnic cohesion watchdog set up after the 2007-2008 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead.
It does not have the power to suspend Facebook but can make recommendations to the government’s Communications Authority.
The NCIC recommendations follow a report by advocacy group Global Witness and UK legal activist firm Foxglove which said Facebook had accepted and run at least 19 advertisements in English and Swahili calling for rape, massacre and to beheading.
“From the report, it is very clear that Facebook is breaking the laws of our country. They have allowed themselves to be a vehicle for hate speech and incitement, misinformation and disinformation,” NCIC Commissioner Danvas Makori said, adding that the Commission had sent recommendations to Facebook.
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The report by Global Witness and UK-based legal activist firm Foxglove found that Facebook was running content from at least 19 adverts on its platform calling for rape, massacre and beheading in English and in Swahili.
Makori also criticized the platform’s reluctance to launch peace messages ahead of the August election “yet they allow hate speech, incitement on their platform.”
He regretted that the platform is discriminatory in regulating hate speech content in Africa.
“Hate speech moderation in the United States and Europe is very robust. There is a double standard in their moderation and self-policing.
A secret British media tip has revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, used the personal data of millions of Facebook users to target political ads and spread misinformation during Kenya’s 2013 and 2017 presidential campaigns.