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SCIENCE & TECH: Kenyan ministers rally around Meta’s Facebook after watchdog’s ultimatum

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya has no intention of shutting down Facebook, which is owned by Meta, its ICT minister said on Monday after the national cohesion watchdog gave the platform seven days to comply with rules on hate speech or face suspension.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) on Friday accused Facebook of contravening Kenya’s constitution and laws for failing to tackle hate speech and incitement on the platform ahead of Aug. 9 national elections.

“We do not have a plan to shut down any of these platforms,” Joe Mucheru, the minister for information, communication and technology, told Reuters. “Press freedom is one we cherish, whether it is (traditional) media or social media.”

His statement echoed that of the interior minister, Fred Matiangi, who accused the NCIC of making haphazard decisions over the weekend, and vowed that the platform will not be shut down.

“They (NCIC) should have consulted widely because they don’t have the power to shut anybody down. They don’t licence anybody,” Mucheru said.

When it issued its ultimatum, the NCIC said it was consulting with the Communication Authority of Kenya, which regulates the industry, adding that it would recommend suspension of Facebook’s operations if it does not comply.

Meta has taken “extensive steps” to weed out hate speech and inflammatory content, and it is intensifying those efforts ahead of the election, a company spokesperson told Reuters.

Mucheru agreed, adding that the platform has deleted 37,000 hate speech related posts during the electioneering period.

Supporters of the leading presidential candidates, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga and deputy president William Ruto, have used social media platforms to praise their candidates, persuade others to join them or to accuse opposing sides of various misdeeds.

Some of Kenya’s 45 tribes have targeted each other during violence in past polls, but Mucheru said this election is different and the country is enjoying peace and calm in spite of the heightened political activities.

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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