Kenya: Social media platforms must act on hate speech ahead of elections

Kenya: Social media platforms must act on hate speech ahead of elections - Civic Space


Statement by ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa on the launch of the Global Witness Report in Kenya.

On 28 July 2022, Global Witness released their findings from a study of Facebook’s content moderation in Kenya, specifically relating to advertisements involving hate speech. ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa is deeply concerned with the findings of this report which show that Facebook’s systems failed to detect hate speech in advertisements in both Kiswahili and English. 

To support the right to free expression and access to information, platforms such as Facebook not only need to establish content moderation rules – they also need to enforce them. Over the past year, research by ARTICLE 19 showed a consistent failure by platforms to adequately moderate content in Kenya. 

We know that implementing moderation rules, especially around elections, is best done with the understanding of the local language as well as historical, cultural and political contexts. However, documents leaked in October 2021 revealed that Facebook developed an opaque system to classify countries into ‘tiers’, determining the amount of resources the platform will dedicate to content moderation around key elections. As a result, in some countries, the company lacked misinformation and hate speech classifiers and only selected countries were assigned dedicated language experts. The inequality of this arbitrary ‘prioritisation’ is plain to see.

Recent revelations also show that employment terms and conditions for human content moderators in Kenya are not compatible with human rights standards. For example, moderators are not provided psychological support nor do they have the right to unionise. 

While we appreciate and take note of Facebook’s efforts to prepare for the general elections in Kenya to protect free expression, the engagement must be well resourced, continuously transparent and participatory. 

Therefore, we call on Facebook and other platforms to: 

  • Properly resource content moderation in all the countries in which they operate, especially African countries, including paying content moderators a fair wage, allowing them to unionise and providing them with psychological support
  • Publish information on what steps they have taken in each country and for each language to keep users safe from online hate

According to section 25 of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is mandated to promote tolerance and respect for diversity, including combating hate speech both online and offline. NCIC has developed a national action plan against hate speech and is monitoring hate speech online.

Beyond these efforts, there is a need for the Commission to join the fight to hold platforms accountable. Therefore, we call on NCIC to: 

  • Enhance its capacity to investigate how all social media platforms deal with problematic content such as hate speech, misinformation and disinformation
  • Hold the platforms to account around the resources dedicated to content moderation in Kenya and demand they publish information on steps taken in Kenya to keep users safe from online hate


Kenya ranked 68 out of 161 countries in the 2022 Global Expression Report – ARTICLE 19’s annual review of the state of freedom of expression and the right to information around the world.