New X adult content policy risks collision with governments

Elon Musk X account

Elon Musk X account (formerly Twitter) is seen in this illustration taken on July 24, 2023. 

Photo credit: File | Reuters

Elon Musk-owned social media giant X has updated its user policy to allow for the sharing and distribution of adult content in a popularity strategy that is set to place it on a collision course with global authorities, including the Kenyan government.

In the platform update, X said users will 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 such as profile photos or banners.

“We believe that 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 in part.

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

The platform 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,” says X.

In Kenya, the policy is poised to open a battlefront with local authorities who have recently embarked on an aggressive drive to weed out moral subversion spearheaded by social apps, which is increasingly rampant among the youthful population.

Social media analyst Egline Samoei interprets the move as a marking strategy which is part of a wider scheme geared towards an ultimate introduction of a paywall, but is quick to note that the approach could flop especially in conservative markets like Kenya’s.

“The new policy update is a marketing strategy by X and Elon Musk to tap into generators who create adult content that has been banned from other platforms. The end goal could be to put content in a paywall and monetise,” states Ms Samoei.

“But again if you look at it, the policy portends risks to users and brands who value online safety. This could spark negative reactions among users and regulators when finally rolled out.”

In recent months, a nationwide debate regarding a possible ban on local usage of the popular short-form video-sharing app TikTok 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 the meeting held in August last year, a State House dispatch indicated that Mr Chew had agreed to work with Kenya in reviewing and monitoring its content as concerns heated up against runaway moral breakdown among users.

Weeks before the meeting, a Kenyan named Bob Ndolo had petitioned Parliament to effect a total ban on TikTok arguing that the explicit content displayed on the platform promoted sexual violence, hate speech, and vulgarity thereby undermining the country’s moral fabric.

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