X adult content policy risks collision with authorities

Social media

X users will be allowed to share consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behaviour.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Kenyan government has been campaigning to weed out “immorality” on social media platforms.
  • Decision by X is part of a wider scheme geared towards ultimate introduction of a paywall.

Elon Musk-owned social media giant X has updated its policy to allow the sharing and distribution of adult content in a popularity strategy that could put it on a collision course with governments, including Kenya.

In the update, X says users would be allowed to share consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behaviour, so long as it is properly labelled and not prominently displayed in highly visible places like profile photos and banners.

“We believe users should be able to create, distribute and consume material related to sexual themes as long as it is consensually produced and distributed. Sexual expression, whether visual or written, can be a legitimate form of artistic expression,” reads the text.

“We believe in the autonomy of adults to engage with and create content that reflects their beliefs, desires and experiences.”

X defines adult content as consensually produced and distributed material that depicts adult nudity or sexual behaviour that is pornographic or intended to cause sexual arousal, including AI-generated, photographic or animated content.

“Users under 18 or viewers who do not include a birth date on their profile cannot click to view marked content,” X says.

The policy could open a battle with Kenyan authorities who are on an aggressive drive to weed out “immorality” on social media platforms.

According to media analyst Egline Samoei, the decision by X is part of a wider scheme geared towards the ultimate introduction of a paywall.

She is, however, is quick to point out that the move could fail, especially in conservative markets like Kenya.

“The policy update is a marketing strategy by X and Mr Musk to tap into generators of adult content banned from other platforms. The goal could be to put content in a paywall and monetise,” she says. 

“But the policy portends risks to users and brands that value online safety. This could spark negative reactions among users and regulators.”

A nationwide debate regarding a possible ban on use of the popular short-form video-sharing app TikTok has dominated policy and expert conversations over the display of sexually explicit content among other concerns, prompting the platform’s global CEO Shou Zi Chew to seek virtual audience with President William Ruto.

Shortly after August 2023 meeting, a State House dispatch indicated that Mr Chew had agreed to work with Kenya in reviewing and monitoring TikTok content as concerns heated up against runaway moral breakdown among the users, who are mostly young. 

Weeks before the meeting, a Kenyan named Bob Ndolo had petitioned the National Assembly and Senate, to effect a ban on TikTok, arguing that the explicit content on the platform promoted sexual violence, hate speech and vulgarity, thereby undermining the country’s morals.