Kenya Launches National Coalition to Fight Harmful Content on Digital Platforms

Attendees gather group photo with former Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen. The launch drew stakeholders across Kenyan society, including government, regulatory bodies, media associations, civil society organizations, fact checkers, academia, technology organizations, international organizations, embassies, and the UN family in Kenya. © UNESCO

The National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation in Kenya (FECoMo) was officially launched on 14 March 2023, as part of a partnership between UNESCO and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) under the ‘Social Media for Peace’ project in Kenya.

The established coalition will serve as a mechanism for engagement between local stakeholders and social media companies to create content moderation strategies that are informed by international human rights standards, local policies and contexts. It brings together representatives from regulators, media associations, fact checkers, civil society organizations, academia and international organizations, among others, across Kenya.

A major milestone under the EU-funded project, the launch brought together more than 70 representatives from the digital and media landscape in Kenya. Whole-of-society stakeholders were present to witness the establishment from FECoMo, reflecting the nation’s multi-stakeholder approach towards navigating the challenges and opportunities of digital spaces.

Although social media platforms have opened spaces for people to communicate, share ideas, promote freedom of expression and foster access to information, they also bring a plethora of challenges. The business and service models of major global digital platforms create structural incentives to spread disinformation and hate speech.

This was well-elaborated by Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Kenya, Ms. Katrin Hagemann, in her opening remarks at the launch. Ms. Hagemann described how malicious actors have abused social media platforms to spread hate speech and disinformation. Particularly during sensitive periods like elections, such abuses create ethnic division and political intolerance, instead of promoting positivity and peace.

“I trust this established coalition will come up with concrete strategies that would enable us construct and sustain new solutions to address hate speech and disinformation. I hope the coalition will pay attention to the root causes as well as the drivers, scale and impact of potentially harmful content online, with a view to enhancing the promotion of peace building narratives in Kenya.” Ms. Katrin Hagemann, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Kenya

UNESCO Regional Director and Representative for Eastern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, reiterated the need for digital platforms to advocate for good avoid profiting from the dissemination of disinformation, hate speech, harassment, and cyberbullying. “If we continue to tolerate social media algorithms which reward lies,” he warned, “future generations will inherit a world in which truth has been dangerously devalued. We hope that this coalition will play a critical role in filling the gap between the realities of local actors and the digital companies that operate on a global scale for the oversight of content moderation of their platforms.”

Prof. Gijzen called upon stakeholders to work for peaceful spaces on social media, and urged new members to reflect, deliberate and propose actions to address harmful content and ensure an Internet for Trust in Kenya.

FECoMo will provide a platform for constructive dialogue with big-tech companies, through which local actors can nudge platforms to allocate sufficient resources towards content moderation and addressing harmful content. This mandate was further emphasised by the Chairman of the NCIC, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, who encouraged members to cooperate with technology companies in embracing local legal frameworks.

“There is very little funding allocated for content moderation by platforms. They make big profits off users and some of these profits should be ploughed back into protecting their users on their platforms.” Ms Aideen Conway, Prevention and Human Rights Analyst, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

FECoMo will also work with technology companies to ensure decisions on content moderation is done with sufficient awareness and understanding of the linguistic, cultural, social, economic, and political dimensions of relevant local context. At the launch, several members of the new Coalition raised the importance of promoting multilingualism in digital policies, including Ms Liz Orembo, a Researcher and Trustee at Kenya ICT Network (KICTANET). “We should invest more on ground research to understand the needs of users and capture our linguistic diversities,” she opined, “This will enable us to understand the different nuances of hate speech and misinformation in social media.”

The launch allowed stakeholders to engage and reflect on recommendations prepared by members of the coalition in December 2022 in Naivasha, Kenya. Participants also discussed strategies and mechanisms for operationalizing the launched coalition in Kenya.

Members emphasized on the need for the coalition to conduct qualitative research on the motivations of users to consume hateful and harmful content on social media. In addition, it was proposed that the coalition should start sensitizing audiences on their rights, local policies and mechanisms that exist for their protection against digital harms and violations.

The UNESCO ‘Social Media for Peace’ project is a multi-year funded project by the European Union in Kenya. It seeks to strengthen the resilience of civil society to potentially harmful content spread online, while protecting freedom of expression and contributing to the promotion of peace through digital technologies.

Originally published by UNESCO on 22 March, 2023.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Get in Touch


Latest Posts