Majorel Kenya Ltd Chief Executive Officer Sven De Cauter before the National Assembly Public Petitions Committee in Nairobi on April 09, 2024.

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

TikTok moderation firm on the spot over explicit content

A company licensed by TikTok to moderate content in Kenya has found itself on the receiving end from lawmakers, who accuse it of sleeping on the job.

Members of the National Assembly Public Petitions Committee bombarded Majorel Kenya Ltd with questions for failing to moderate content deemed obscene.

Appearing before the committee that is considering a petition seeking to stop TikTok from operating locally was Majorel Kenya Ltd Director Sven de Cauter.

The lawmakers demanded to be informed what the firm is doing to ensure content released for public consumption meets the set standards.

Mr Cauter said while TikTok is Majorel Kenya Ltd’s client, his company can only deal with what it has been given through Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it does not have direct access to customers’ accounts.

“Clients determine what content is moderated and assign content quest for our employees to review. In sum, all content is controlled by our clients,” Mr Cauter told the lawmakers.

He also admitted that Majorel Kenya Ltd is unable to deal with content in local dialects.

The MPs raised concerns that the dirty content in local languages ends up on the social media platform.

Such, Mr Cauter said, can only be flagged as “foreign content”.

The committee is engaging stakeholders on a petition filed by Mr Bob Ndolo, the Executive officer of Bridget Connect Consultancy, who wants Parliament to sanction the closure of TikTok on grounds that it is exposing people to explicit sexual content.

“Moderators are advised to escalate issues to their supervisors in case they come across content that may be difficult to deal with,” Mr Cauter said.

Majorel Kenya Ltd operates on the TikTok software through the back end to moderate content as guided by TikTok.

The Majorel Kenya-TikTok relationship is that of a service provider and client.

Threat by Kindiki

It is similar to the numerous arrangements around the planet where a company designs, builds and delivers end-to-end customer experience tools for well-respected digital-born and vertical leading brands.

Mr Cauter told the National Assembly committee that Majorel Kenya Ltd’s content moderators are trained and are responsible for reviewing user profiles and user-generated content on a client's social media platform.

Such include images, videos, comments, direct messages, chats and live streams.

It is the work of Majorel Kenya Ltd to tell if user-generated content or user profiles violate the client’s platform’s policies.

He, however, added that TikTok determines which content is to be moderated and assigned to moderators.

Petition Committee members criticised Majorel Kenya Ltd, calling it toothless when it comes to taming harmful content.

“What exactly do you do to ensure obscene content, some openly pornographic, is moderated? What is your role in ensuring such content does not get out there?” Vihiga MP Ernest Kagesi asked.

Mr Kagesi’s Awendo colleague, Walter Owino, said the company appears not to be aware of its role in regulating content on TikTok.

“This organisation does not know what it is doing. Majorel Kenya Ltd does not take the concerns of consumers seriously,” Mr Owino said.

Taveta MP, John Bwire, told the company that it should be of concern that it cannot control some content “yet you are the regulator”.

“Some content outside there in your area of jurisdiction is harmful yet there is nothing Majorel Kenya Ltd can do about it. Have you taken the matter up with TikTok?” the Taveta lawmaker asked Mr Cauter.

Turbo MP, Janet Sitienei, questioned the ability of the company to flag harmful content and prevent it from reaching the public.

“What else do you do apart from just referring a bad video or photo back to the client? Do you engage TikTok?” Ms Sitienei asked.

Kuria East MP, Marwa Kitayama, questioned the rationale of Majorel Kenya Ltd handling obscene videos that find their way on the TikTok platform.

“When you send a video back to TikTok, it will already have been out there with children. So how are you regulating the content?” he asked.

“You are admitting that not everything goes through you. What exactly are you moderating or what are you allowed to moderate?”

Last month, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki told the National Assembly Petitions Committee that the government could ban TikTok.