An event marking World Press Freedom yesterday was, strangely, the venue that Kenya’s media regulator chose to announce progress in its efforts to censor a music video promoting gay rights, a Kenyan remix of the Macklemore song Same Love.
“We are happy that the music video has been pulled down following a request we made to Google,” Ezekiel Mutua, head of the Kenya Film Classification Board said at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday (May 3), according to local media. “This is part of making sure that content is healthy for all.”
In fact, the video has not been “pulled down”—but Google, which hosts the video on YouTube, has agreed to post a warning for Kenyan viewers before they watch the video. It has now been flagged by Google as “potentially inappropriate.”
The KFCB, charged with regulating all visual content in the country, banned the song in February for advocating gay rights and depicting sex scenes between gay couples. The board said the production threatens to turn the country into “Sodom and Gomorrah.” The song and video were made by a Kenyan hip hop group called Art Attack and posted to YouTube.
The board had demanded that the video be taken down, but Google refused. At the time, Google Kenya said that it did not have the authority to remove the video posted to Youtube. In the US, a Google representative said the video platform ”has clear policies that outline what content is acceptable to post” and that it would only remove content that violate its policies when flagged by users.
Now it appears that Google and Kenya have reached a compromise. Users in Kenya that come across the video will see that it has been flagged for viewer discretion, but it can still be played. It is not being taken down, according to Google Kenya. “It doesn’t mean the video isn’t available for viewing in Kenya,” a Google Kenya representative in Nairobi said.
In Kenya, homosexuality is a criminal act, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The ban actually may have brought more attention Kenya’s nascent gay rights movement. Since February, the video has doubled in views to more than 200,000, helped by the KFCB when the regulator posted a link to the song in a tweet cautioning users not to circulate the video.
KFCB’s supposed win over Google—Mutua has been posting images of a local news headline that says “Google bows to film board“—also gives the regulator a boost. Last month, the KFCB succeeded in lobbying Coca Cola to delete a kissing scene from an ad playing in Kenya.
“All film and broadcast content is required by law to conform to national moral values,” Mutua wrote in a Facebook post today.