29 July 2022, Nairobi/London - Global Witness, Foxglove and the “Facebook Files” whistleblower Frances Haugen are calling on Facebook to deploy emergency measures in Kenya to protect the integrity of the country’s election.
They are calling for a suspension on
advertising until the election is concluded, and actions similar to the “Break
the Glass” measures Facebook took in the days immediately following the January
6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
The call also compels Facebook to 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.
The call follows an intervention this morning by Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission, who told Facebook they have violated the country’s hate prevention guidelines and have seven days to demonstrate their compliance with the recommendations in Global Witness and Foxglove’s report. If Facebook fails to comply it faces a temporary suspension in the country, which will hold a general election on August 9.
The “Break the Glass” package of emergency measures, which Facebook took after the January 6 crisis and revealed in The Facebook Files by Haugen, involved multiple specific steps to demote hate and incitement on the platform – with many steps to be implemented in a matter of hours.
The Kenyan NCIC issued its ultimatum to Facebook following the presentation of a report from Foxglove and Global Witness that demonstrated Facebook approved paid ads containing hate speech calling for ethnic violence, including calls for genocide.
Given Facebook’s abject failure to prevent hate speech seeping into Kenyan Facebook ads, Haugen, Global Witness and Foxglove are also calling on the tech giant to suspend all paid adverts until the end of the August 9 elections. Facebook has previously suspended ads ahead of sensitive elections, such as Ireland’s abortion referendum.
Foxglove director Cori Crider said: “Suspending ads and rolling out “break glass” measures are steps Facebook can take to reduce the risk to the Kenyan election today. That’s what we’re calling for. When US democracy faced serious threats during the Capitol riots, Facebook took a series of specific “break glass” measures to make the platform safer. Some of these “break glass” actions could be implemented in mere hours.
“Facebook can and should urgently take similar actions in Kenya. If Mark Zuckerberg chooses to sit on his hands, it will make it clear that for him, and for Facebook, American lives matter – Kenyan lives don’t.”
Ava Lee, Leader of the Digital Threats to Democracy Campaign at Global Witness, said: "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 claiming to improve its systems and increase resources ahead of the Kenyan election, it was still approving overt calls for ethnic violence. This isn’t a one off. We’ve seen the same inability to function properly in Myanmar and Ethiopia in the last few months as well. The possible consequences of Facebook’s inaction around the election in Kenya, and in other upcoming elections around the world, from Brazil to the US mid-terms, are terrifying,’ said Ava Lee, Leader of the Digital Threats to Democracy Campaign at Global Witness."
"We don’t want to see the platform shut down - it’s a hugely important information source for millions of people in Kenya. But we know Facebook has the resources to ensure it isn’t undermining the integrity of our democracies: it demonstrated that in a couple of hours in the US. Now it’s time Facebook showed it cared about its users in the rest of the world too."
Haugen, Facebook whistleblower behind the Facebook Files revelations, said:
“The safety of the Kenyan election matters every bit as much as the United States, and there are multiple steps within the software that Facebook can take to preserve electoral integrity right away. After January 6, Facebook staff took urgent steps to restrict the most dangerous features on the platform, reducing violence and hate on the platform. They have also previously suspended ads. Given we now have evidence Facebook did not invest in basic Ads safety measures in Kenya - Facebook should suspend ads until the Election at a minimum. Facebook should step up in Kenya now, and stop putting profits before people.”