Probing Social Media Platforms? Kenya Senate Should Focus on ‘Data’: Lawyer

Probing Social Media Platforms? Kenya Senate Should Focus on ‘Data’: Lawyer

Kenya Senate Building

Mercy Mutemi, lawyer with an interest in Internet Law and Policy Legislative Advisory that governs the use of the internet, says Kenya’s Senate should focus on data when probing social media platforms in the country.

She was making the remarks in response to how the U.S government had handled the TikTok issue with President Donald Trump approving a deal between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and Oracle (ORCL).

According to Ms. Mutemi, it is all about ‘protection, localization, and jurisdiction’.

“And that’s on localizing data. If the Kenyan Senate is really going to carry out an inquiry into social media platforms in Kenya, the focus should be on data,” she said through her Twitter feed.

“TikTok should be the least of their concerns at this point. Start at Facebook. All those problems they’re looking for, they’ll find them there,” she said.

Last week, nominated Senator Falhad Dikow asked the  Senate to investigate the use of TikTok and whether Kenyan users’ data is secure.

“The application gathers information on the user’s country location, internet address, and type of the device if allowed. It will also ascertain the user’s exact location, phone’s contact, and other social media network connection as well as age. It is also alleged that the application understands the users’ area, what they like, what they find to be funny, and what they tell their friends,” Dikow said.

She alleged that TikoTok is being used by Kenyans to spread violence, bully, and hate speech.

“This has raised ethical concern about the application and has contributed negatively to Kenyans’ society, especially at this pandemic error when schools have remained closed for a very long period of time,” she said.

Senator Isaac Mwaurai in a rejoinder said if there would be a probe, then, “The same issue also includes other applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and others… But let’s not let this be another way of seeing a trade war like that witnessed between iPhone and Huawei in the United States.”

Findings from the Kenyan Social Media Landscape: Trends and Emerging Narratives, 2020 report published by USIU-Africa, in partnership with the U.S Embassy Nairobi found out that most Kenyans use social media platforms: WhatsApp (89%), Facebook (81.7%) and YouTube (51.6%) being the most popular.

However, “While the number of WhatsApp users have increased marginally in 2020, the number of Facebook users have decreased by 6.8%. Worth mentioning is the new entrants to the top ten most used social media in Kenya which now include TikTok (8.8%), Telegram (15.5%) and Facebook Messenger (37.4%).”

On issues concerning Facebook, Mercy Ndegwa Head of Public Policy, East & Horn of Africa said they will organise a webinar on September 30th in partnership with Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) to respond to issues raised during a 4 days series on “Talk2Facebook”.

The series focused on content moderation, human rights and privacy, data protection, and connectivity.