Kenya leads globally in active usage of TikTok, according to the Reuters Institute./ Photo: Reuters

By Brian Okoth

The Kenyan parliament has received a petition seeking to have TikTok banned in the country.

The petitioner, Bob Ndolo, says the social media platform promotes immorality, violence, the use of vulgar language, explicit sexual content and hate speech.

Ndolo, in his petition, said if the platform is not banned, Kenya’s cultural and religious values risk being eroded.

Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly Moses Wetangula confirmed on Tuesday that his office had received Ndolo’s petition.

Ndolo further argued that TikTok has collected the demographical data of many Kenyans, including location, and shared it with third parties without the users’ consent.


The petitioner, who is a technology consultant, said many Kenyan youths have been addicted to the platform, leading to a decline in academic performance, depression, anxiety and mental health problems.

“The petitioner wants the house to intervene and take immediate action and safeguard Kenyans from TikTok's negative effects,” Wetangula told the members of parliament on Tuesday.

A debate followed thereafter, with a few of the lawmakers supporting the petition, while a majority expressed their reservations about imposing a ban on TikTok.

Leader of the majority party in the National Assembly Kimani Ichung’wah said Ndolo’s petition was “fighting technology.”

‘Regulate, not ban’

“Ndolo should have petitioned the house to look at ways to regulate the use of these apps and how the ICT department will be able to regulate the content,” Ichung’wah said.

“Outright banning would be killing careers. The government now appreciates this as an industry (that) we can raise revenues (from). We just need to regulate (TikTok’s use),” he added.

Opiyo Wandayi, who is the leader of the minority party in the National Assembly, said TikTok had created jobs for many Kenyans, and that its existence in the country should be protected.

“We are living in difficult times where unemployment levels are high. As a country which is responsible, we should be looking for other apps to help them create content and earn a living,” he said.

‘No to total banning’

The two leaders’ sentiments were echoed by several MPs, including the Woman Representative of Central Kenya county of Kirinyaga, Njeri Maina, and the MP of the capital Nairobi’s Dagoretti South Constituency John Kiarie.

Martin Owino, an MP of Ndhiwa Constituency in western Kenya, said parliament has the power to regulate the use of TikTok and other apps in the country, but asked the legislators to be “conscious of these platforms.”

“While we cannot do total banning, we need to do proper controlling and regulation to save our children,” he said.

Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi, who has 4.2 million followers on Instagram, says the government should move in to regulate the use of TikTok, but not to totally prohibit its use.

Jobs pledge 'unfulfilled'

“President William Ruto promised jobs to the youth, but his administration, which is one year old, has not fulfilled that pledge. As a result, the youth had to find a way to survive, and that is where TikTok came in,” Omondi told TRT Afrika on Tuesday.

Omondi, however, says there are aspects of TikTok usage that should be regulated.

“When I hear calls for a ban on TikTok, I know where they are coming from. It is the people who feel that the platform has too much nude or inappropriate content, especially late at night,” Omondi said.

“The concerns are valid, and the government can intervene by regulating TikTok activities to ensure responsible use of the platform.

“TikTok has a big office in Nairobi. The government can approach the platform’s representatives and agree on how to safeguard the social media app from abuse. This can be implemented on TikTok’s end,” he said.

Kenya leads in TikTok usage globally

The Speaker of Kenya's National Assembly has tasked the Communication, Information and Innovation Parliamentary Committee to deliberate on Ndolo’s petition and present its findings and recommendations to the house soon.

According to a June 2023 report by the Reuters Institute, Kenya is the world’s leading TikTok consumer.

The report showed that the East African nation concentrated 54% of TikTok usage for any purpose and 29% for news.

Thailand came in second place as South Africa held the third spot with 50% for general use and 22% for news.

Recently in Kenya, there had been complaints online that late night live sessions on TikTok had been turned into platforms for exhibiting nudity and inappropriate content.

Founded in China in 2016, TikTok is a video-sharing app that allows users to create and share short-form videos on any topic, and it is mainly mobile-based.

TRT Afrika