Kenyan ministers gather around Meta’s Facebook after watchdog ultimatum

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya has no plans to shut down Meta-owned Facebook, the ICT minister said Monday after the national cohesion watchdog gave the platform seven days to comply with rules on hate speech or suspension of the face.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) accused Facebook on Friday of violating Kenya’s constitution and laws for failing to address hate speech and incitement on the platform ahead of the August 9 national elections.

“We have no plan to shut down any of these platforms,” ​​Joe Mucheru, the minister of information, communications and technology, told Reuters. “Press freedom is one that we cherish, be it through (traditional) media or social media.”

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His statement matched that of Interior Minister Fred Matiangi, who accused the NCIC of making haphazard decisions over the weekend, vowing that the platform will not be shut down.

“They (NCIC) should have consulted widely because they don’t have the power to shut anyone down. They don’t license anyone,” Mucheru said.

When issuing its ultimatum, the NCIC said it was in consultation with Kenya’s communications authority, which regulates the industry, adding that it would recommend suspending Facebook’s operations if it does not follow the rules.

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Meta has taken “extensive steps” to ban hate speech and incendiary content, and it is stepping up those efforts ahead of the election, a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Mucheru agreed, adding that the platform removed 37,000 hate speech messages during the election period.

Supporters of the leading presidential candidates, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga and Vice President William Ruto, have used social media platforms to praise their candidates, persuade others to join them or accuse opposing parties of various misdeeds.

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Some of Kenya’s 45 tribes have targeted each other in previous polls, but Mucheru said these elections are different and the country is enjoying peace and tranquility despite increased political activity.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; editing by Toby Chopra)