Facebook: stop enabling hate speech and protect the Kenyan election

Every day, all over the world, Facebook fails to stop posts and adverts that incite violence on the platform. In Kenya, the election is just days away. It is vital that you ensure Facebook isn’t undermining the integrity of it or inflaming tensions. 

Mark Zuckerberg, it isn’t too late to take measures to make Facebook safe in Kenya in the run up to the election. We call on you to immediately:

  1. Suspend all advertising until the election results are verified and accepted. Don’t put your profit before people. If you can’t ensure that ads uploaded to Facebook are safe, then ban ads until after the election.
  2. Action “Break the Glass” measures. When US democracy faced serious threats during the Capitol riots in January, Facebook took a series of specific “break glass” measures to make the platform safer. Some of these actions could be implemented in mere hours and included technical adjustments to the Facebook algorithms that slow the spread of hateful and violence inciting posts on the platform.
  3. Be fully transparent with regulators and the public. Facebook must set out exactly what measures it is taking in Kenya to ensure the integrity of the elections – including publishing their pre-election risk assessment – and the timeline for their roll out.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed Facebook’s knowledge of the harm its failure to moderate content on the platform causes in the global south, and particularly in non-English speaking countries.

Following the publication of the ‘Facebook Files’ you said that Facebook had ‘industry-leading’ hate speech detection, and that your updated safety and security measures are able to prevent ads that fuel violence. Recent investigations show that is not true.

On Friday, Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission told Facebook that they had violated the country’s hate prevention guidelines and that you had seven days to make changes. If you fail, you face a temporary suspension in Kenya, which will hold a general election on August 9.

Nobody wants to see Facebook suspended. Facebook is a hugely important source of information to millions of people in Kenya. Our demands are steps you can take today to reduce the risk to the Kenyan election. We know you have the resources to do this: you demonstrated that in a couple of hours in the US. Now it’s time you showed you care about its users in the rest of the world too.

We look forward to your public response.

This petition is hosted by Foxglove, Global Witness and the Kenyan Human Rights Commission. Foxglove and Global Witness have recently partnered on a series of investigations which documents and exposes Facebook’s continued failure to remove hate speech and content that incites violence in Myanmar, Kenya and Ethiopia.

On Friday 29 July at a Global Witness and Foxglove press conference in Nairobi, Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission gave Facebook 7 days to reform.