Kenya: A coalition to address content moderation and promote free speech

Kenya: A coalition to address content moderation and promote free speech - Digital

Summary

ARTICLE 19 and UNESCO call for applications to join the proposed national coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation in Kenya

ARTICLE 19 and UNESCO are calling for applications to join the proposed national coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation in Kenya. The Social Media 4 Peace initiative aims to strengthen the resilience of societies against potentially harmful content spread online, in particular hate speech inciting violence, while protecting freedom of expression and enhancing the promotion of peace through digital technologies, notably social media.

  1. Introduction 

UNESCO is implementing a European Union-funded Social Media 4 Peace project that aims to strengthen the resilience of societies against potentially harmful content spread online, in particular hate speech inciting violence, while protecting freedom of expression and enhancing the promotion of peace through digital technologies, notably social media. The project is aligned with UNESCO’s overall strategy to combat disinformation by fostering information as a public good and strengthening the transparency of the internet ecosystem. The project will contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies, and to the UN Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to combat the disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance online.

During the first year, UNESCO, through the Social Media 4 Peace project, commissioned ARTICLE 19 to conduct national research on the gap between local stakeholders and content moderation systems and practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, and Kenya. The research explored the disconnect between the global content rules for platforms and their enforcement at the local level and discussed the availability of content rules in local language(s), the effectiveness of remedies provided by platforms to individual users, the transparency of data on content moderation, the capacity of content moderation systems to incorporate a solid understanding of the complexity of the local context (language, social, history, culture), and relationships between global companies and local stakeholders. 

The report describes the state of content moderation, which is often at odds with the requirements of international standards on freedom of expression in relation to content moderation, as they have, for instance, been expressed in the Santa Clara Principles, a set of principles on transparency and accountability for content moderation that was elaborated and adopted by international civil society organisations. The Santa Clara Principles include a principle on Cultural Competence, which: 

‘(…) requires, among other things that those making moderation and appeal decisions understand the language, culture, and political and social context of the posts they are moderating. Companies should ensure that their rules and policies, and their enforcement, take into consideration the diversity of cultures and contexts in which their platforms and services are available and used, and should publish information as to how these considerations have been integrated in relation to all operational principles. Companies should ensure that reports, notices, and appeals processes are available in the language in which the user interacts with the service, and that users are not disadvantaged during content moderation processes on the basis of language, country, or region.’ 

In the perspective of putting forward possible solutions, the report suggests that effective content moderation requires a transparent and sustainable dialogue between platforms and local civil society groups. To that end, the research recommended setting up a national coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation that could play a role in filling the gap in current content moderation practices in target countries. Most stakeholders replied positively to this idea.

In the second year of the project, UNESCO, in close cooperation with ARTICLE 19 and relevant national stakeholders, is seeking for organisations/institutions to join and work towards the creation of a national multi-stakeholder coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation in Kenya. It is foreseen that the coalition will help facilitate a sustainable, inclusive, credible, and meaningful dialogue between local civil society groups and social media platforms to address online hate narratives and disinformation in Kenya.

  1. About the proposed national coalition 

The National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation is a pilot initiative that aims to bridge the gap between local stakeholders and social media companies to improve content moderation practices and bring them in line with international standards on human rights. The coalition will be a multi-stakeholder forum that will be informed by, and promote, international standards on freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. It will be inclusive and represent the diversity of society. It will be evolutive: while it will be launched with a few members, it will be open to welcoming new members. It will be transparent and accountable. 

  1. Objective of the coalition 

The objective will be to allow local actors to form a critical mass to engage in effective and sustainable conversations with social media companies to inform and discuss content moderation processes that impact the aforementioned respective countries. This will help contribute to ensuring that human rights and the various dimensions of the local context can be integrated into content moderation practices. It is expected that social media companies will also benefit from long-term stable engagement with the proposed national coalition, as it will provide them with a one-stop shop to gather input about local contexts and current events. 

  1. Vision and mission

The national coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation will be built around:

  • The recognition of international standards on freedom of expression and other fundamental rights; 
  • A shared understanding of content moderation issues, in particular the negative impact on society of the gap between content moderation processes and the local circumstances in which specific cases have to be decided; 
  • A shared understanding of the theory of change for the established national coalition; namely, it will enable local civil society organisations to engage transparently and sustainably with social media companies and contribute to content moderation practices that comply with international standards on freedom of expression and are informed by a clear understanding of all aspects of the local context.
  1. Membership
  • Coalition membership is open to civil society organisations, academic institutions, journalists’ associations, media associations, content producers, media and digital literacy actors, government agencies, and private sector organisations interested in and committed to working on freedom of expression and content moderation. 
  • Special attention will be paid to existing coalitions and networks in order to avoid competition and identify possible complementarity.
  1. Inclusivity
  • The coalition will be inclusive and represent the diversity of society in Kenya, including marginalised groups.
  1. Local ownership
  • The coalition will be collectively owned, designed, and coordinated by its members. The initial stages of its development will provide opportunities for potential members to discuss the findings of research work conducted by ARTICLE 19 and Build Up under UNESCOs Social Media 4 Peace project in Kenya as well as related draft documents to be used for establishing and operationalising the national coalition. 
  1. Tasks and deliverables

The partners will contribute to the facilitation of a process culminating with the launch of the national Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation foreseen to take place in January 2023. The partners will also participate in a series of events (trainings and workshops) with local stakeholders and future members of the coalition. 

  1. Application process

To be a member of the coalition on freedom of expression and content moderation for Kenya, kindly send the following documents to UNESCO, and a copy to ARTICLE 19: 

  • An official letter of expression of interest to join the coalition. The letter should highlight your organisation’s/institution’s mandate (1 page, signed and stamped by the organization’s leaders); 
  • A copy of an official registration certificate 
  • CVs of the representative(s) submitting the organisation/institution; 
  • Summary of thematic areas of work related to promotion of fundamental rights of freedom, peace building, digital literacy, access to information, and other relevant areas of work that address hateful narratives and disinformation.

Deadline: Prospective applicants are required to send their application to UNESCO and ARTICLE 19 via the provided contact details below by Sunday, 6 November 2022. Please note that offers submitted after the deadline will not be considered. Application results and reviews will be communicated by Thursday, 10 November 2022. 

Contact details: 

John Okande, UNESCO: [email protected]

Catherine Muya, ARTICLE 19 EA: [email protected]

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