Months back, I wrote about the KTN Kenya Facebook Fanpage which I condemned for being too lax in its commenting policy – which was officially nonexistent but I still expected some sort of moderation. Back then, the Jamaican Cleric who was said to be on the Terror watchlist was the subject of discussion on the KTN Fanpage and the ensuing discussions deteriorated so bad that stereotypical religious slurs were being casted left right and centre. My problem though was not with the idiots casting these slurs because to me they did not know any better, but rather with KTN who did such a shitty job of moderating the discussions happening on their page i.e. they didn’t. Now it seems things may actually be getting worse and it is not just with the KTN Fanpage but rather with Fanpages of all media houses in Kenya.
It appears I am not alone in making this observation. Michael Okelloh wrote on the same in the Standard Newspaper, his appeal being, “We Should Tame Hate Speech on Facebook”. In his article, he aptly states the reasons why statements amounting to hate speech are flourishing on Facebook in Kenya as:
- Ignorance by many Facebook users and the administrators of Facebook pages on what expressions amount to hate speech and its punishment under Kenyan law.
- The subconscious sense of obscurity and privacy mistakenly offered by Facebook.
- The inadequate capacity of the relevant Kenyan law enforcement authorities, particularly the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the Cyber Crimes Police Unit.
He raises the same issues I did back then and he has compelled me to write another post on the same but with a focus of compelling these media houses to implement comment policies on the social media platforms they engage on.
It is unfortunate that politics in Kenya is largely defined by tribe and not issues. But that is the reality on the ground. Mr Okelloh wrote his post based on the political/tribal reality in Kenya – now dominated with the Raila/Ruto fiasco where he writes “This led to a nauseating Facebook exchange of ethnic-based hate mainly between supporters of the PM, a Luo, and those of Ruto, a Kalenjin.” In my article, I was concerned because the exchanges then though not tribal were all the same nauseating religiously discriminatory exchanges. Both of these scenarios represent hate speech and for me, what was worse is that these idiots were given quite big platforms by the biggest networks in the country to peddle their ill informed divisive slurs on very emotive matters; those of religion and tribe.
As much as I would like to fault those who are stupid enough to write these hateful statements, I do recognise that we are not all of sound mind. However, what I cannot excuse is the inaction by the media stations who own these Facebook Fanpages and who allow these hate speeches to be carried out on their platforms. And given that these news networks have the biggest number of fans on Facebook, it is irresponsible of them to allow ignorant diatribes over tribe, religion and in fact any other topic, emotive or not to take place under their watch. Do they think that the fact that Facebook is a third party site somehow absolves them of any responsibility, both legal and moral, over what is said there? The buck stops with them as it does with the peddler of hate speech. The National Cohesion and Integration commission questioned Ruto over hate remarks allegedly made by him on “his” Facebook page. I think Kibunja should also take action against media houses that allow hate speeches made on their pages.
And curbing these hate speeches is not rocket science. As I advised the last time round, these media houses need a comment policy for their social media engagements. These comment policies will let users know that certain words and certainly hate speech will not be condoned on the company’s page. The consequences of breaching this will be that your comment will be deleted and you will be deleted as a Fan and blacklisted from commenting. Just set the ground rules. More than that, monitor conversations. Don’t just post potentially emotive questions and watch from the sidelines as people head for each other’s jugulars. Post, monitor, engage, and moderate the conversations. There is always a way to put a point across in a civil manner. Make sure that this is what happens in discussions of your platforms. People will respect you the more for it. Ask users to be a part of it, to flag inciting comments and to always try to remain level headed.
If people come to your house, they must play by your rules. If it is shoes at the door, that is what it is. The same goes for hate speeches in your blogs, Facebook pages, twitter handle, and any other social network. As someone told me, a diplomat is someone who will tell you are open-minded when he means you have empty head (stupid). See, there is always a better way to say things… Lets leave hate speech to savages, we are better than that. Kenyan Media Houses, play your damn part.