Written by Mwara Gichanga
As the world’s biggest social network, Facebook has held a contentious place in the ongoing debate about what role social media is playing in how information is spread around the world today. The norm is that more conversations has moved online and with that a lot of hateful, ugly and false information as well. Facebook has therefore taken responsibility to counter attack content that is unwarranted by creating a platform dubbed hard questions to encourage community reporting so as help the platform flag down such content.
Facebook in conjunction with The Kenya ICT Action Network(KICTANET) brought the conversation home by organizing an open house at Villa Rossa Kempisnski Nairobi, to spark conversation about Facebook’s role in reporting and flagging down content that is considered hate speech and one that is false and incites violence, especially now that Kenya is approaching the elections. With the hashtag of event agreedupon through public participation #OpenHouseKE
The event saw the CS of ICT Joe Mucheru joining in on this critical conversations as questions on what his ministry is doing to cub the issues of cyberbullying and fake news, the CS was careful to point out the importance on person online responsibility and further encouraging that action starts with the mwananchi taking initiative on reporting on such cases on social media platforms like Facebook, giving an example of Mutahi Ngunyi’s Youtube channel which the CS thinks should be taken down as it crosses the line of freedom of expression and hate speech.
Ebele OkobiHead of Public Policy in Africa highlighted the importance of community reporting, as Facebook has 2 billion users and only a fraction of that population report cases of , Ebele continued by explaining that FB content regulation is global, there are no rules for specific countriestherefore the company announced a new plan to add 3,000 more people to its operations to the additional 4,500 to be able to screen for harmful videos and other posts so as to respond to them more quickly in the future.
One of the more prominent question at the open house was issues of context and intent measure when it comes to what content gets pulled down and Ebele explained that figuring out what constitutes hate speech and what should be removed is the largest challenge Facebook faces. Sometimes it’s appallingly obvious when hate speech is just that and there sometimes, there isn’t a clear consensus because the words themselves are ambiguous, the intent behind them is unknown or the context around them is unclear. So, in order to figure out what actually is hate speech, the company looks at context and intent before taking action and works with growing public policy support together with the community to establish the ever evolving intent in content.
Facebook is working with local groups in Kenya such as Article 19, calling the working group Trust Flags to pick out serial reporters and also help Facebook understand context.
On Fakes News Ebele spoke on media houses and bloggers working on ethical credibility on news or information shared and their responsibility to the public by promoting education on news literacy.
The issues were too broad to cover at the limited time at the open house but as pointed out by Grace Githiaga a co-convener at KICTANET the conversation still continues on the KICTANET mailing list, so that the public is able interact with Facebook and have a deeper know how on applying the laws that govern us offline do the same online.