Young people in Kenya are okay with government regulating social media, citing hate speech as a reason to inform the regulation.

A GeoPoll survey has revealed that 58 per cent of young people do not mind the regulation of the internet by the government. But in a surprising result, the same young people overwhelmingly consider free speech online as a human right.

The survey, done in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda by polling 4,000 youth was meant to understand their perceptions on social media, internet regulation, and free speech.

But from the result, they seem unsure of what regulation means, including shutdown.

A majority of youth polled do not mind regulation of the internet by their governments.

When asked if governments should regulate the use of social media, 54 percent of respondents believed the government should regulate social media; 46 percent indicated they did not want the government to regulate social media. Ghana has the highest number of respondents (61 percent) who favour the government regulating the use of social media followed by Kenya (58 percent), Nigeria (54 percent) South Africa (52 percent).

From the feedback of the countries polled, Ugandans least support regulation at 46 per cent. The Ugandan government shutdown the internet during the elections two years ago, something that none of the other countries polled have faced.

Kenya has the highest percentage of youth who picked hate speech as the reason for regulation at 36 percent. When asked why they would support a government regulation of social media, most (24 percent) felt that a regulation would be effective in preventing hate speech.

The response from Kenyans could also be informed by the fact that hate speech is prevalent and a reason that led to post election violence in 2007/8.

In an earlier nationwide survey among youth in Kenya, 34 percent indicated that they use social media to address issues affecting them. However, they fear reprisal for their outspokenness with 59 percent sighting their safety as a motivator that would help them take action on important issues.

It is clear that countries that have experienced free speech issues whether its access being misused or access denied, inform their decisions on whether they support regulation or not.

There have been concerns that the Kenyan government could shut down the internet during the August elections. While the government has responded by saying it will not, it has been quick to add that electoral violence is one reason they can use to shut down the internet.