FECoMo Kenya members

Advancing National Cohesion: Recommendations for NCIC 2023 Bill Amendments

By Linda Gichohi

“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” – Khalil Gibran.

Amidst a gathering of distinguished minds, representatives from the National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation (FeCoMo) Kenya presented pivotal recommendations for the amendment of the National Cohesion and Integration Bill, 2023

This assembly, graced by Members of Parliament from the National Cohesion and Equality Committee, shed light on the pressing need to confront digital manifestations of hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation. 

The proposed amendments of the National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation (FeCoMo) Kenya stand as a strategic roadmap, navigating the complex landscape of digital realities to propel Kenya toward a future defined by peace, unity, and cohesion.

Established under the Social Media 4 Peace Project by UNESCO and ARTICLE 19 in Kenya, FeCoMo brings together academia, civil society, think tanks, and national agencies working on freedom of expression and content moderation. 

The coalition’s mandate is to safeguard freedom of expression and combat harmful online content that can incite violence and disrupt social harmony.

As digital platforms become integral to public discourse, the rise of hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation poses significant challenges to national cohesion. 

The proposed amendments to the NCIC 2023 Bill aim to confront these challenges head-on. 

However, FeCoMo recognises that any limitations on freedom of expression, as outlined in Article 33 of the Kenyan Constitution, must be carefully balanced with legitimate aims in a democratic society.

Privacy by Design: Safeguarding Citizens

One key aspect FeCoMo emphasises is the need for privacy by design in digital platforms. This principle ensures that privacy considerations are integrated into the design and operation of systems, apps, and processes.

By prioritising privacy, platforms can protect users from unauthorised data use and mitigate risks associated with online harassment and abuse. Protecting users’ data safeguards individual privacy and mitigates manipulation techniques and microtargeting with divisive content. 

The inclusion of robust data protection and privacy provisions can reduce individuals’ susceptibility to online manipulation and exploitation.

Regulating Tech Platforms for National Cohesion

FeCoMo’s recommendations also delve into the regulation of tech platforms. With their vast reach and influence, these platforms play a pivotal role in shaping public discourse. 

Kenya can promote national cohesion by regulating these platforms, especially in instances of brigading or manufactured consensus. 

The coalition stresses the importance of transparency in political discourse, holding platforms accountable for their algorithms and content moderation policies that perpetuate manufactured consensus, otherwise known as brigading.

Matrix Representation: Key Recommendations

FeCoMo’s recommendations for the NCIC 2023 Bill amendments are detailed and comprehensive. Here are some highlights:

  • Definitions and Clarity: The Bill needs definitions for key terms such as hate speech, discrimination, and victimisation. The clarity in the language is essential for effective enforcement.
  • FeCoMo suggests inclusive communication formats when handling complaints, ensuring accessibility for all, including persons with disabilities.
  • Role of the Commission: Expanding the role of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and introducing an oversight body can prevent abuses of power and enhance accountability.
  • Independence and Accountability: FeCoMo advocates for the NCIC’s independence, echoing similar provisions for Chapter 15 Commissions. Independence is crucial for its effectiveness.
  • Regulation of Tech Platforms: The recommendations call for specific provisions to regulate tech platforms, especially concerning hate speech and disinformation. Transparency and accountability are key.

Further Considerations

Combatting Deep Fakes and Misinformation

Another pressing concern is the rise of deep fakes, which are highly realistic but fabricated audio, video, or images. These maliciously crafted media pieces can easily mislead and manipulate viewers, further exacerbating social and ethnic discrimination. 

Public education on identifying and verifying information is crucial to empowering citizens against this threat. Fact-checking tools and initiatives should be integrated into the Bill’s provisions to counter misinformation and disinformation effectively.

Brigading and Political Astroturfing

These are forms of Online Gender-Based Violence as defined in the Digital Enquirer Kit. Brigading refers to the coordinated and targeted mass sharing of content intended to harass, intimidate, or influence public opinion. It often involves mobilising online communities to overwhelm platforms with a specific narrative, drowning out opposing voices and creating a false sense of consensus.

Political astroturfing is the artificial manipulation of social media platforms to simulate grassroots support or opposition for a political cause or candidate. This deceptive practice can distort public discourse, erode trust in institutions, and sow division within society.

Collecting Evidence of Online Harassment

In the digital realm, accountability hinges on the ability to collect evidence of online harassment and abuses that undermine national cohesion. This should be considered to ensure clear procedures and mechanisms for collecting, preserving, and presenting digital evidence in proceedings. This step is essential for holding perpetrators accountable and deterring future incidents.

Clear Definitions for Digital Abuses

Specific and clear definitions within our laws are paramount for identifying and addressing digital abuses that perpetuate ethnic and social discrimination. 

By defining terms such as hate speech and other forms of on-brigading, political astroturfing, deep fakes, and other forms of online harm, the Bill can equip authorities with the tools needed to combat these evolving threats effectively.

Lastly, as part of the coalition’s recommendations, the Bill should prioritise regulating tech platforms. These platforms play a pivotal role in disseminating information and shaping public discourse. 

Clear guidelines on tech companies’ responsibilities and liabilities regarding hate speech, misinformation, and data privacy are essential for fostering a healthier online environment.

Towards a Safer, Inclusive Digital Environment

FeCoMo’s recommendations are not just about legal amendments; they represent a vision for a safer, more inclusive digital environment in Kenya. By incorporating privacy by design principles, regulating tech platforms, and ensuring the independence of oversight bodies, Kenya can pave the way for national cohesion in the digital age. 

The proposed amendments, as outlined by FeCoMo, aim to limit harmful content and foster an environment where freedom of expression is protected with respect and inclusivity. 

As Kenya navigates the complexities of the digital landscape, these recommendations offer a roadmap toward a more cohesive and peaceful society.

In the ongoing efforts of the coalition to refine the National Cohesion and Integration Bill, it is crucial to address not only traditional forms of hate speech but also newer, more insidious forms of online gender-based violence that threaten national cohesion. 

As the KICTANet Technology Observer Mission noted, two significant phenomena, brigading and political astroturfing, have emerged concerning tactics, particularly during election periods.

Moving Forward: Collaboration and Implementation

FeCoMo looks forward to further engagements with the government and policymakers to ensure these recommendations are not just words on paper but actionable steps toward a safer and more united Kenya. 

The complete set of recommendations, accessible through the provided link, offers a detailed roadmap for advancing national cohesion in the digital era.

In closing, the call is clear: Kenya has the opportunity to lead in promoting national unity, safeguarding freedom of expression, and creating a digital space where all voices are heard and respected.

In conclusion, as Nelson Mandela eloquently stated, “Unity in diversity is the highest attainable standard of national cohesion.” 

The recommendations proposed by the National Coalition on Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation (FeCoMo) Kenya for the amendment of the NCIC 2023 Bill are a significant step towards achieving this unity. 

Addressing digital manifestations of hate speech, misinformation, and disinformation is crucial in navigating the complex landscape of digital realities. 

These amendments aim to advance peace, unity, and cohesion in Kenya and ensure a safer and more inclusive digital environment for all citizens. 

As we refine the National Cohesion and Integration Bill, these additional considerations are vital for addressing the complex challenges posed by online gender-based violence, misinformation, and digital manipulation. 

By incorporating provisions to combat brigading, political astroturfing, deep fakes, and other digital abuses, the Bill can better protect national cohesion, promote informed public discourse, and safeguard the privacy and rights of all citizens.

By embracing these recommendations, Kenya can pave the way for a brighter, more cohesive future for all its citizens. Link to Full Recommendations.

Linda Gichohi is a lawyer, a KICTANet Legal Fellow, and a Gender Program Assistant. She has an interest in women’s digital rights and access to justice for technology-facilitated violence. 



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