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CEO bats for TikTok ban in Kenya, writes to Parliament Speaker

The petitioner wants the house to intervene and take immediate action and safeguard Kenyans from TikTok's negative effects

Moses Wetang’ula, the Speaker of Kenya’s Parliament has informed the media about receiving a petition to ban the short-form video hosting service TikTok in the African country for promoting “inappropriate behaviour” and sharing its users’ information with a third-party company without the customer’s consent.

Moses Wetang’ula further stated that petitioner Bob Ndolo, a private citizen, had written to the Parliament, asking it to intervene and take immediate action to safeguard Kenyans from TikTok’s negative effects.

“The petitioner has decried that the content that is being shared on the social media platform is inappropriate and is promoting violence, vulgar language, explicit sexual content, hate speech which is a serious threat to the cultural and religious values in Kenya,” the Speaker said, while reading out the letter.

“The platform has shared information about its users with the third-party company without users’ consent,” petitioner Bob Ndolo wrote in his plea.

Ndolo, who did not provide evidence of his claim that TikTok had shared the data of its users with third parties, said if TikTok is not banned in Kenya, its addictive nature would lead to negative impacts, especially a decline in academic performance and a rise in mental health issues, among the youth.

“The petitioner wants the house to intervene and take immediate action and safeguard Kenyans from TikTok’s negative effects,” Speaker Moses Wetang’ula commented, while urging lawmakers to debate and investigate the use of TikTok in the East African nation.

Ndolo, CEO of the Bridget Connect Consultancy, also blamed the country’s Communications Authority (CA) for not regulating the platform, stating that because of this action, things were getting out of hand.

“TikTok has been implicated in several privacy scandals over the past years. For instance, in 2019, the app was fined USD 5.7 million by the USA Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 by collecting data such as names, email addresses, and locations from young users without their parents’ consent thus violating Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” read a part of the petition.

However, both Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah and Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said about finding “nothing wrong” with TikTok’s presence in Kenya.

The leaders also said that it would be better to regulate the app rather than ban it as it has been an avenue for many to create content and earn a living.

Ichung’wah also advised Ndolo to petition for the regulation of the platform including the age limit and the content, apart from suggesting fines for those sharing explicit content. Wandayi too backed the proposal, stating that a blanket ban on the app would be disregarding the digital age.

Prominent Kenyan woman politician Jane Njeri also called for regulation of the platform rather than totally banning it in the country.

“I am on TikTok and I use it to impact the children. Young people on the platform are making a living and we cannot entirely do away with the content. Perhaps what we can front is the regulation of social media platforms including TikTok,” the Kirinyaga Woman Representative remarked.

The Public Petitions Committee of the house was tasked with investigating TikTok by the Speaker. The group has 60 days to report, and depending on its recommendations, the matter will be debated or dismissed.

The Kenyan trouble for the video hosting app, which has more than 1 billion global users, comes at a time when it is facing bans in key markets, including the United States and the European Union, over concerns about its data protection practices.

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