February 3, 2024

Can the DSA Help Mitigate Online Disinformation Threats? Insights from Kenya's Elections

The article highlights the alarming rise of online disinformation in Kenya as elections approach. Platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter are accused of hosting harmful content, including hate speech and incitement to violence against ethnic communities. This disinformation threatens to exacerbate tensions reminiscent of the deadly clashes following Kenya’s disputed 2007 election. Investigators found that not only are social media companies failing to adequately police this content, but their algorithms often amplify its reach.

How the DSA Can Help

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) offers a potential roadmap for combatting the types of online harms presented in the Kenyan context. Here’s how its provisions could make a difference:

  • Tackling Illegal Content: The DSA mandates that platforms establish robust mechanisms for swiftly removing or disabling access to illegal content, which includes hate speech and incitement to violence. This would force platforms to invest more significantly in content moderation, particularly in regions where political tensions are high.
  • Countering Disinformation: While disinformation itself might not be outright illegal, the DSA requires large platforms to increase transparency about how they address the spread of misleading content. This includes providing more information to users about the sources of information and taking steps to combat harmful disinformation campaigns.
  • Algorithmic Accountability: The DSA demands greater scrutiny of the algorithms that power social media platforms. By understanding how these algorithms promote certain content, regulators and civil society groups can better pressure companies to reduce the amplification of harmful and inflammatory material.
  • Obligations for Very Large Platforms: The DSA places additional responsibilities on the largest online platforms. These include regular risk assessments, independent audits, and a greater obligation to cooperate with authorities and researchers focused on societal risks.

Important Considerations

While the DSA provides a strong regulatory framework, several factors are critical for its potential success in scenarios like Kenya:

  • Enforcement: Strong and sustained enforcement mechanisms are necessary to ensure that tech companies actually comply with the DSA’s requirements.
  • Context-specific adaptation: Implementing DSA-like regulations in Kenya would require careful consideration of the local legal framework, social dynamics, and the role of specific platforms within the country’s information ecosystem.
  • Global Collaboration: Tackling disinformation is fundamentally a transnational challenge. The DSA presents the potential to encourage greater international cooperation on platform regulation.

The Role of Companies like DSA Notice

SaaS companies that provide compliance solutions for the DSA will play a vital role in helping businesses navigate these new regulations. By streamlining processes, offering guidance, and automating aspects of compliance, these tools can empower businesses to stay ahead of the regulatory curve, ultimately promoting a safer and more trustworthy online environment.

Disclaimer: It’s essential to note that the DSA is still a relatively new piece of legislation, and its real-world impact across different jurisdictions remains to be fully seen.

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