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NCIC backs UNESCO’s content moderation on social media

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and content moderation in Kenya.

The initiative is meant to curb the spread of hate speech on social media by coming up with concrete strategies that will be employed to reduce polarization of people along ethnic, political, and gender lines.

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Speaking during the coalition’s launch in Nairobi, Unesco representative Professor Hubert Gijzen said that while social media has empowered all over the world to communicate, the next generation might inherit a world where truth has been dangerously devalued due to hate speech.

“We all want digital platforms for good and not for the dissemination of disinformation, harmful content, harassment and cyberbullying,” Prof Gijzen said.

Prof Gijzen believes that the establishment of a multistakeholder national coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation in the country will help bridge the gap between internet companies, regulators and civil society organisations.

“We hope that this coalition will play a critical role in filling the gap between the realities of local actors and the digital companies that operate on a global scale for the oversight of content moderation of their platforms.”

Speaking during the event, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) chairperson Dr Samuel Kobia supported the move, saying that the rise and evolution of social media have changed the definition of communication and social interaction.

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Dr Kobia said that his commission has constantly been monitoring hate speeches on social media platforms and that since January, there has been a constant decrease in the number of cases on social media.

According to Dr Kobia, from January to date, 97 disinformation/fake news, four hate speech, and three incitement cases were identified across social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

Dr Kobia revealed that the commission has continued to observe the use of under-the-table publications.

“This technique helps in spreading misinformation and disinformation and in a good number of cases where fake news and disinformation were by, we have created posts to counter the trend of misinformation in some of the cases, and the rest we have forwarded to respective tech companies for action,” Dr Kobia said.

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Also, the NCIC chairperson said that tech companies have equally given limited attention to addressing emerging challenges among users and insufficient allocation of resources, especially to developing countries to manage country-specific unique social media needs.

“Failure by tech companies to embrace local legal frameworks hinder moderation of social media platforms and use. This exposes users to cyberbullying and attack.”

In her remarks, Ms Katrin Hagemann, who is the European Union in Kenya Deputy Head noted that the evolution of media technologies has created new vehicles for the spread of hate speech.

She said that media outlets can monitor harmful narratives and promote positive contents to encourage peaceful elections during electioneering periods.

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