In June, Global Witness and Foxglove Find that Meta continues to approve advertisements within Amharic that target Ethiopian users that include hate speech and calls for violence. Facebook has implicated in spreading hate speech and inciting ethnic violence in Ethiopia The conflict is going on.
Crider thinks Facebook needs to invest more in censorship practices and protect democracy. She worries that even the threat of a ban would allow the company to reduce accountability for issues it still hasn’t addressed.
“I think eventually the moment when any regulator looks at Facebook and it looks like they’re going to get them to actually do something that might cost them some money, they start screaming about censorship and making the wrong choice that it is basically uncensored and Facebook is not controlled or there is no Facebook at all,” she said.
And Crider says there are things the company can do, including “Broken glass” measures such as stripping heavily promoted live videos or limiting the reach of objectionable content and banning election-related ads during the voting period.
Mercy Ndegwa, Meta’s Public Policy Manager for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, told WIRED that the company has “taken extensive steps to help us arrest hate speech and incitement in Kenya.” and we are ramping up these efforts ahead of the election.” However, she admits that “despite these efforts, we know that there will be examples of things we miss or we handling errors, as both machines and humans make mistakes.” Meta did not respond to specific questions about the number of content moderators it has who speak Swahili or other Kenyan languages, or nature of conversations with the Kenyan government.
“What the researchers did was stress test Facebook’s systems and prove that what the company was talking about was hogwash,” Madung said. Madung said that Meta’s permission to advertise on the platform despite the review process “raises questions about its ability to handle other forms of hate speech,” including large amounts of user-generated content. User-generated does not require pre-approval.
But banning Meta’s platforms, Madung said, won’t eliminate misinformation or ethnic tensions, as it doesn’t address the root cause. “This is not a mutually exclusive question,” he said. “We needed to find the middle ground between heavy-handed approaches and fact-based accountability.”
On Saturday, Joseph Mucheru, cabinet secretary for internet and communications technology (ICT), tweeted, “The media, including social media, will continue to enjoy PRESS FREEDOM in Kenya. It’s unclear what legal framework the NCIC plans to use to suspend Facebook. Government is being saved. We do NOT turn off the Internet. “There is currently no legal framework that would allow the NCIC to order the suspension of Facebook,” concurred Bridget Andere, Africa policy analyst at the nonprofit Access Now.
“Platforms like Meta have completely failed to handle misinformation, misinformation and hate speech in Tigray and Myanmar,” said Andrere. “The danger is that governments will use that as an excuse to shut down the internet and block apps, when it will instead push companies to invest more in censoring human content and make it easier for them to do so.” do so in a manner that respects human rights and ethics”.
Madung, similarly, worries that regardless of whether the government decides to suspend Facebook and Instagram right now, the damage could already be done. “The effects will be seen at another time,” he said. “The thing is, precedent is now officially set, and it could be mentioned at any time.”