TikTok ban Kenya

Kenyan parliament must reject petition to ban TikTok

Freedom of speech must be protected. Access Now and civil society organizations in Kenya are calling on the Kenyan parliament to reject a petition to ban TikTok presented to the parliament on 15 August by private citizen Bob Ndolo. 

The petitioner is alleging that the platform is exposing youth to offensive behavior, vulgar language, and sexually explicit content. Bob Ndolo is pushing for members of parliament to “protect people in Kenya” from this content,  claiming it is a threat to Kenya’s religious and moral values. 

Moderating social media content that breaches terms of service and has adverse human rights impact must be evidence-based, not on the whim of moral crusaders seeking to put their individual beliefs above the freedom of millions. Platforms like TikTok are enablers of human rights, how they are regulated has an effect on these rights and must therefore be lawful, necessary, and proportionate. Bridget Andere, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now

The petitioner claims that TikTok’s failure to remove and block allegedly offensive content is due to the Communication of Authority of Kenya’s failure to regulate the platform. While regulation is important, authorities must seek to regulate within legal limits while remaining within the confines of international standards as spelled out by the UN Human Rights Committee in General Comment 34.

Regulating content that is broadly defined as ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’ sets the stage for overreach — opening the door to further restrictions on rights. This can lead to an increase in authoritarianism that directly interferes with people’s right to seek, receive, and share information, as well as hold opinions. Jaimee Kokonya, Africa Campaigner at Access Now

Any actions that seek to limit freedom of expression for the so-called protection of public morality must align with international human rights law principles, not the moral or religious beliefs of individuals. The statement signatories are calling on Kenya’s  Public Petitions Committee to:

  • Reject the proposal to ban TikTok;
  • Adopt a holistic and human rights-based approach in line with constitutional and international human rights standards to ensure the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights, while addressing the legitimate concerns surrounding social media use; and 
  • Engage in open and inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue to develop effective and evidence-based approaches to address concerns surrounding social media platforms.