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Push for social media firms to limit harmful content

Kenyans want the government to act and put reasonable restrictions on social media companies in order to reduce harmful content.

Majority of Kenyans have experienced social media harms with incidences being higher amongst males, urban respondents and predominantly those living in Central and Nairobi Regions.

A study undertaken by Trends and Insights for Africa (TIFA) a Research company on Disinformation and the Role of Big Tech in Kenya report further says that Kenyans want educational campaigns to help people find and report disinformation and fake news.

Speaking during the release of the National 2022 Report carried out between 23rd March-14th May 2022, TIFA Research Chief Executive Officer, Maggie Ireri said there should be government intervention to ensure that social media companies adhere to their own rules

“Kenyans want platform to put reasonable restrictions in place on what people can and cannot post as well as have a better review process to look at content but they also do not want government to overreach,” she said.

According to the study whose most respondents were aged between 18 to 24 years,  social  media companies  should make rules to limit the type of posts that can be made, ban or  suspend accounts that overwhelmingly post negative things, create rules for spreading false information  and have a stronger review process before videos go live.

“Sixty three (63) per cent who feel that social media companies not doing enough to remove harmful content from websites, social media platforms and Apps, Thirty five (35) per cent who feel that social media platforms alone can protect users from harm without government intervention while Sixty five (65) per cent are not concerned on governments control of the internet and social media platforms”, said the CEO

Although most Kenyans start out as positive about social media, believing that users are more responsible for reducing exposure to online harm, major benefits mentioned were entertainment, employment opportunities and connecting with family and friends.

However, Ireri noted that over the course of the discussion, the public expressed serious concern about the way social media contributes to creating harm for Kenyans.

“There is a strong appetite for more information about how the system works, and solutions from a variety of stakeholders be it government, social media companies and citizens”, she noted

The most harm to the social media and online platforms was job scams, people getting conned online, graphic content circulating and also gender based attacks with most Kenyans identifying ‘Facebook’ as the least trusted social media platform and is used mostly to spread disinformation.

“By total, the top social media platforms known for the spread of disinformation, according to respondents, in order are, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok and this order cuts across the gender and age demographics”, Ireri said.

For most regions, the CEO said that Job scams were the most common form of disinformation followed by death of prominent people.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was also disinformation about vaccine efficacy and safety, she added.

Women for example identified social media harms with respect to reproductive health issues and report being exposed to more disinformation on this topic.

The research found that Seventy (70) per cent of Kenyans believe that social media creates an environment for spreading rumors or harmful content about women, with one third of the respondents saying that the online attacks on women are on the increase.

“Attacks on body appearance and sexualized attacks are the most notable online compared to attacks on intelligence and qualifications,” Ireri said.

Overall, the majority of Kenyans feel that social media platforms self-regulation cannot protect users from harm without government intervention and those living in the North Eastern (91%) region had the highest number of respondents who felt that social media platforms alone cannot protect users.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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