ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa is deeply concerned by Twitter’s decision to suspend the accounts of social justice movements and some of their members, all of whom had participated in the #njaaRevolution campaign. We call on the platform to immediately restore these accounts and commit to integrating due process in their content moderation process.
On 27 May 2022, human rights defenders in Kenya campaigning on Twitter using #NjaaRevolution woke up to find their Twitter accounts suspended. #NjaaRevolution is an online campaign protesting the soaring prices of food and other basic commodities in Kenya. The campaign also raises concern regarding the impact of poor governance on Kenya’s economy and citizens.
Twitter suspended 22 accounts belonging to the Social Justice Centres Working Group, six Social Justice centres, and their members, including #NjaaRevolution campaign leaders in Kenya. Some of the accounts include: Social Justice Centre Working Group (@uhaiwetu), Kasarani social Justice Centre (@suicultural19), Alqamar Community Justice Centre (@QamarCentre), Article43Committee (@43Social), Kiamaiko Social Justice Centre (Kiamaiko), as well as Korogocho Peace and Justice Centre (@korogochoC). The suspension messages from Twitter alleged that some of these accounts were suspended because the users appeared to have exhibited suspicious behaviour. The platform has not explained to the users what was meant by the term ‘suspicious’ behaviour or what behaviour was deemed suspicious. For accounts that were permanently suspended, Twitter did not state the particular reason for suspension but instead gave a blanket reason of ‘breaking Twitter Rules’.
Through notifications on the platform, Twitter asked users whose suspension was temporary to send their identification – that is either their phone number or email address – to Twitter to confirm they were valid owners of the account in order to lift the suspension. However, users whose accounts were permanently suspended are only able to access the app in read-only mode, meaning they cannot read, retweet, like or create any new account on the platform. Efforts to escalate the appeal of this decision on the platform have so far been futile.
“The decision to permanently suspend these accounts has been carried out in an arbitrary manner. It further appears to be disproportionate and unjustifiable. ARTICLE 19 has repeatedly raised alarm over the impact of poor content moderation practices restricting free expression in Africa. To date, these tech platforms fail to provide content rules in local languages and effective complaint redress mechanisms and remedies to their users,” said Mugambi Kiai, Regional Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.
ARTICLE 19 views the suspension of these accounts as censorship of civic actors at a critical period ahead of the August 2022 general elections. The 2017 joint declaration on Fake News, Disinformation and Propoganda called on intermediaries to take effective measures to ensure that their users can easily access and understand their policies and practices. In 2021, ARTICLE 19 published the revised Santa Clara principles,which call on platforms like Twitter to be more transparent and accountable in their content moderation practices. However, to date, targeted users do not understand the reason for their account being suspended and are unable to receive immediate assistance from Twitter.
We, therefore, call on Twitter to:
- Immediately restore the suspended accounts
- Commit to integrating due process in its content moderation
- Ensure complaint redress mechanisms and remedies are easily accessible, effective, reliable and include human review.
ARTICLE 19 runs the #MissingVoices campaign, asking platforms for more transparency and the right to appeal decisions that stifle the right to freedom of expression where user content is wrongly removed. If you have had your social media post and account taken down but do not understand why and would like to share your experience, contact us at [email protected].
For more information please contact Mugambi Kiai at [email protected]