“Ban TikTok” Suggests Ben Ndolo In A Petition To The National Assembly of Kenya

Kenyan Parliament Debates Potential Ban on TikTok Amidst Concerns Over Content

The Kenyan Parliament is abuzz with discussions surrounding a petition that seeks to ban the popular social media app TikTok in the country. The petition, presented by Bob Ndolo, the Chief Executive Officer of Bridget Connect Consultancy, has ignited a passionate debate about the app’s impact on cultural and religious values, as well as its potential consequences for young Kenyans.

At the heart of the debate is the assertion that TikTok’s content is inappropriate, promoting explicit sexual material, hate speech, and offensive behaviors that undermine the country’s cultural and religious norms. The petitioner argues that the Communications Authority of Kenya’s (CA) lack of regulatory oversight exacerbates the problem, making it difficult to control and block such content from being shared.

Mr. Ndolo emphasises that, “The content being shared on the platform is inappropriate, thus promoting violence, explicit sexual content, hate speech, vulgar language, and offensive behavior which is a serious threat to the cultural and religious views of Kenya.” He further argues that if left unchecked, TikTok’s addictive nature could lead to a decline in academic performance and contribute to mental health issues among the youth.

While the petitioner’s concerns have struck a chord with many, a consensus on the appropriate course of action has yet to emerge within the Parliament. Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah has urged caution against an outright ban, highlighting the potential negative impact on young people who use the platform as a source of income.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa

“The petitioner should come to seek ways to regulate the usage of the app, age group, and content uploaded for a certain age to watch. Outright banning would be killing careers of many young people who are earning a living through it,” he said.

Kirinyaga Woman Representative, Njeri Maina, echoed Ichung’wah’s sentiment, suggesting that regulating the content uploaded on TikTok could be a more balanced approach. She emphasised that a complete ban might inadvertently worsen unemployment among young Kenyans.

However, Nominated MP Irene Mayaka raised the concern that even a potential ban might not fully address the problem, as individuals can still access similar content from other countries using VPN tools. Mayaka urged parents to become more proactive in monitoring their children’s online activities to ensure responsible usage.

MP John Kiarie of Dagoretti South shifted the focus of the conversation toward individual responsibility, suggesting that parents and churches play a crucial role in teaching children about morality and appropriate online behaviour.

“Parliament cannot go to the houses of individuals to switch off TikTok because children are misusing it. It’s the parents and churches to teach the children about morality.” urged Hon. Kiarie

Ndhiwa MP Martin Owino advocated for a balanced approach, suggesting that while parliament can’t directly regulate morality, it can create an environment that encourages responsible use of technology.

MP Martin Owino at a past event

Owino underscored the importance of finding a solution that protects children while still allowing access to digital platforms.

The debate in the Kenyan Parliament comes on the heels of a larger global conversation about TikTok’s influence and potential risks. Several countries, including the United States, have previously expressed concerns over the platform’s data collection practices and potential threats to privacy. In 2019, TikTok faced a $5.7 million fine from the USA Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting personal information from children under 13 without parental consent, a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

TikTok has also played a significant role in Kenya’s anti-government protests, with creators live streaming demonstrations and sharing real-time perspectives on the streets. While the platform provides a unique and uncensored news outlet, concerns have arisen about potential risks. Users point out that TikTok live streams help protect protesters against police brutality by documenting and deterring aggressive actions. However, there have been instances of creators receiving threats from individuals claiming to be police officers.

The platform’s growing popularity, particularly during protests, has fueled discussions on its impact, with experts cautioning that it could stoke tensions and misinformation. Despite these concerns, TikTok’s algorithm-driven visibility, ease of monetisation, and increased user engagement contribute to its allure in Kenya, even prompting the national police to explore the platform’s potential for dialogue.

A user opening the TikTok App on a mobile device

The petitioner’s argument that TikTok’s content promotes explicit material and violates users’ privacy echoes similar concerns raised in other parts of the world. This global context adds complexity to the discussion in Kenya, as lawmakers grapple with how to balance freedom of expression, economic opportunities for young content creators, and the need to protect cultural and religious values.

As the Kenyan Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee reviews the petition, the nation watches closely to see what action will be taken in response to the calls for regulation or even a potential ban on TikTok. The outcome of this debate is likely to shape how Kenya navigates the challenges posed by digital platforms and their influence on society, culture, and youth well-being.


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