Friday, June 9, 2023

On June 8, 2023, the University of Nairobi welcomed Dr. Tawfik Jellasi, Assistant Director General, Communications and Information , United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  delivered a public lecture on "Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms." The event took place on the fourth floor of Anniversary Towers.

Mr. John Orindi, Director, Corporate Affairs moderating the Public Lecture on June 8,2023

Mr. John Orindi,  Director Corporate Affairs, inaugurated the meeting by extending a warm welcome to the attendees and introducing the topic. He emphasized some of the negative aspects of social media, such as cyberbullying and misinformation.

Dr. Tawfik Jellasi, , commenced his speech by presenting statistics on the challenges faced by the digital media. He highlighted that 73% of women journalists experience online harassment, and 20% of these women have experienced physical violence. Dr. Jellasi further cited an example from Sweden where female journalists resigned due to their inability to cope with the constant harassment. These alarming figures set the stage for UNESCO's initiative in establishing guidelines for regulating digital platforms.

Dr. Tawfik Jelassi delivering a Public Lecture at University of Nairobi on Thur, June 8, 2023 

The objectives behind UNESCO's involvement in this initiative, as outlined by Dr. Jellasi, are: to promote the free flow of ideas in digital spaces, to foster digital governance, ensuring that these platforms operate within ethical boundaries and to build just and inclusive societies where everyone can participate without fear or discrimination.

Dr. Tawfik emphasized the responsibilities of digital platforms, which include respecting human rights in content moderation and curation. He stressed the importance of transparency, user empowerment, and accountability to relevant stakeholders. He also informed the audience about the ongoing development of the guidelines, currently in the third phase. Dr. Jellasi encouraged individuals to visit the UNESCO platform, read the available information, and provide feedback by June 27.

Following Dr. Jellasi's insightful presentation, Dr. Vincent Omondi, Head of Cybercrime at the Communication Authority of Kenya, commended UNESCO for its initiative and shared the steps being taken by the authority to combat cyber-related crimes.

Further,  Neema Mutemi, the Managing Director of Perspective Africa, applauded Kenya for having some regulations, she said, ‘Kenya is not necessarily starting from scratch when it comes to regulating digital platforms. Kenya is considered an advanced country in matters technology and there are 3 cases ongoing against Meta.” She however challenged the government to hasten its speed when it comes to regulation, she noted, ‘As it is, the Kenyan government is now playing catch up but there are bigger issues that are yet to be addressed on the use of digital platforms.”

Ms Neema Mutemi, CIPR UoN Course Lead and Manager of Perspectif Africa 

Victor Bwire, representing the Media Council of Kenya, also joined the meeting and expressed gratitude towards UNESCO for their efforts. In his speech, he emphasized the need for public education on digital media platforms, noting that the country often allocates significant resources to law making rather than raising awareness among the citizens.

The event concluded with an interactive session where individuals had the opportunity to ask questions, which were answered by the speakers.

Press Release by UNESCO Nairobi

The advent of the Internet and social media have greatly expanded ways of expressing information and organizing ourselves. But we are also increasingly conscious that they have become a breeding ground for widespread disinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories that regulatory systems need to catch up to safeguard freedom of expression and access to information.  

In the face of these challenges, greater guidance and policy advice are urgently needed. Based upon experiences from regulation, in addition to relevant principles, conventions, and declarations over the past decade, the UNESCO is now developing, through multistakeholder consultations Safeguarding freedom of expression and access to information: guidelines for a multistakeholder approach in the context of regulating digital platforms.

The Guidelines will encourage and contribute to the development of a global multistakeholder space to debate and share good practices about digital platform regulation that protects freedom of expression and access to information while managing content that can be restricted under international human rights law, presenting evidence, gathering different visions and a broad spectrum of perspectives. 

Since the beginning of this initiative, UNESCO has been affirmative about the need to ensure that whichever is the regulatory goal, approaching to digital platform regulation requires a right based and a risks management approach. Also, about the importance to engage the multistakeholder community in any regulatory process. 

To achieve this goal, UNESCO hosted the Global Conference “Internet for Trust” in February 2023. The conference was a key multistakeholder consultation forum that brought together more than 4,000 participants, from 138 nationalities, In the different stages of this multistakeholder process UNESCO has heard from hundreds of voices and received more than 4000 comments.

Kenya’s ICT landscape continues to shape the information ecosystem both online and offline. While Kenya has made significant progress in advancing online freedom of expression, the spread of potentially harmful content such as hate speech and dis/misinformation has increasingly become an issue of concern that threatens public access to information, social cohesion, peace and democracy.

So, how can the Guidelines be used as tool to fight against these harms? A question whose answer depends on a collective approach, which UNESCO and its partners are developing, in Kenya, through our Social Media for Peace Project.

This public lecture entitled Internet for Trust and the Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms will highlight the new paradigms and challenges of information landscape in the digital era, in particular for content moderation on internet and social media, showcase the current work undertaken by UNESCO on the guidelines for regulating the digital platforms, and draw special attention of the big tech companies on their responsibility to build an internet for trust. The presentation will highlight in particular the importance of multi-stakeholder cooperation and collaboration to design an internet for all.

If you missed the Public Lecture watch it here