Last week a Global Witness and Foxglove investigation revealed that Facebook is failing to detect hate on its platform in Kenya, despite promises to prevent this happening. Following a presentation of our report, a Kenyan Government watchdog agency announced Facebook has seven days to tackle this issue or risk being shut down.

Social media use ahead of Kenyan election, April 2022

TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

Let’s be clear: we don’t want to see the platform shut down in Kenya or any other country. It has become an extremely important place for millions of people to communicate with each other, and in the context of elections, to hear from their political candidates and discuss major issues.

At the same time, Facebook has the power to make or break democracies and yet time and time again we’ve seen the company prioritise profits over people. We were appalled to discover that even after highlighting its apparent action to safeguard the election and remove hateful content , Facebook was still actively approving overt calls for ethnic violence and illegal hate speech via online ads, as we demonstrated in the investigation we released last week.

This isn’t a one off. We’ve seen Facebook fail to detect dangerous hate speech in Myanmar and Ethiopia in the last few months too. And the consequences of Facebook’s inaction could be horrific. They already admitted they played a role in inciting the violence that led to the genocide in Myanmar, and the election in Kenya is very tense - with the violence following the 2007 election still a very raw memory for many in the country.

This story also goes beyond Kenya. With citizens around the world heading to the polls in the coming months and year -  including in Brazil, the US, India, and Europe - Facebook must be ready for many more high-stakes elections.

We know Facebook has the resources to ensure it isn’t undermining the integrity of elections – it demonstrated that within a couple of hours in the US in 2021 following the January 6th insurrection. Now it’s time Facebook showed it cared about its users in the rest of the world too.

Ahead of the Kenya election, we’re calling on Facebook to:

  • Suspend all advertising until the election results are verified and accepted.
  • Take actions similar to the “Break the Glass” measures Facebook took in the days immediately following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
  • Be fully transparent with regulators and the public, by setting out exactly what measures it is taking in Kenya and the timeline for roll-out.