Kenya’s ethnic cohesion watchdog, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), has directed Facebook to stop the spread of hate speech on its platform within seven days or face suspension in the East African country.

Facebook risks ban in Kenya for failing to stop hate speech

The watchdog was reacting to a report by advocacy group Global Witness, and Foxglove, a legal non-profit firm, which has fingered Facebook’s inability to detect hate speech ads. This comes as the country’s national general elections approach. The Global Witness report corroborated NCIC’s own findings that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was slow to remove and prevent hateful content, fanning an already volatile political environment. The NCIC has now called on Meta to increase moderation before, during and after the elections, while giving it one week to comply or be banned in the country.

“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,” said NCIC commissioner Danvas Makori. Global Witness and Foxglove also called on Meta to halt political ads, and to use “break glass” measures — the stricter emergency moderation methods it used to stem misinformation and civil unrest during the 2020 U.S. elections. In Kenya, Facebook has a penetration of 82%, making it the second most widely used social network after WhatsApp.

To test Facebook’s claim that its AI-models can detect hate speech, Global Witness submitted 20 ads that called for violence and beheadings, in English and Swahili, all of which, except for one, were approved. The human rights group says it used ads because, unlike posts, they undergo a stricter review and moderation process. They could also take down ads before they went live. “All of the ads we submitted violate Facebook’s community standards, qualifying as hate speech and ethnic-based calls to violence. Much of the speech was dehumanizing, comparing specific tribal groups to animals and calling for rape, slaughter and beheading,” Global Witness said in a statement.

Following the findings, Ava Lee, the leader of the Digital Threats to Democracy Campaign by Global Witness said, “Facebook has the power to make or break democracies and yet time and time again we’ve seen the company prioritize profits over people.” “We were appalled to discover that even after claiming to improve its systems and increase resources ahead of the Kenya election, it was still approving overt calls for ethnic violence. This isn’t a one-off. We’ve seen the same inability to function properly in Myanmar and Ethiopia in the last few months as well. The possible consequences of Facebook’s inaction around the election in Kenya, and in other upcoming elections around the world, from Brazil to the U.S. midterms, are terrifying.”

Source: This news is originally published by techcrunch

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