Social media was once a free-for-all place where people from all over the world could interact and form friendships. However, it quickly became a playground for stalkers, cyber bullies and even criminals getting a kick from harassing innocent internet users.
As a result, regulations were put in place to protect social media users from such vices and restore sanity. Kenya followed suit and enacted a law known as the Computer Misuse And Cybercrimes Act which regulates the use of the internet. It also states unlawful activities that warrant a fine and/or a jail sentence. This legislation was challenged by the digital community in the country who argued that some of its provisions were unlawful and violated human rights. The Bloggers Association Of Kenya (BAKE) sued the Government due to the fact that they felt that the law targeted journalists and imposed hefty penalties on crimes that should actually be misdemeanors. The Law Society Of Kenya (LSK) also joined in the fight to have some sections of the Act repealed but lost the case.
Despite the court cases, the Cybercrimes Act has been in force partially since its enactment in
2018. Since it appears that the government is intent on enforcing the various sections of the act, one needs to be careful.
Here are some things you might do on social media that can get you into trouble.
1. Spreading Fake News
We can thank Donald Trump for coining the phrase “fake news” which has become a popular
buzz word and a mammoth problem today. There was once a time when you’d scroll social
media and see a fake story everyday about a celebrity death or political turmoil. The
Kenyan government made it a crime to post false publication under Section 22 of the Cybercrimes Act. However, this section can be used subjectively by the powers that be to stifle freedom of expression. One of the first casualties of this legislation were two social media users who found themselves on the wrong side of the law after allegedly posting fake news on Facebook. The duo claimed that the Security CS, Dr. Fred Matiang’i had been admitted in hospital after contracting the coronavirus. This offence attracts a fine of Ksh 5 million, a 2-year jail sentence or both.
2. Sharing Private Information
There’s no reason why anyone should share another person’s private information especially in this age of identity theft. However, there are people who have appointed themselves as private investigators on social media who expose other people’s dirty linen. While it’s entertaining, one mistake could land you in jail as one, Edgar Obare, knows too well. He was charged with unlawfully publishing private details after posting a visa belonging to another social media user without consent.
This crime is provided for under Section 72 of the Data Protection Act and attracts a fine not
exceeding Sh3 million or an imprisonment term not exceeding 10 years, or both. Additionally, the Cybercrimes Act criminalizes any offense committed using a computer under Section 46 which covers this offense.
3. Publishing False Information
This crime is specifically aimed at media personalities and was one of the controversial sections challenged by BAKE. It states that if anyone intentionally and maliciously publishes false information in print, broadcast, data or a computer system that causes panic, violence or defames some will be found guilty under the Act. Some bloggers such as Cyprian Nyakundi have already been charged with the crime after publishing several articles defaming Safaricom. The latest victims were two bloggers that is Milton Were and Jack Okinyi who wrote a story on Tuko touching on corruption in the awarding of multibillion tender at the Kenya Urban Roads Authority.
4. Cat Fishing/ Identity Theft
Catfishing has been there since social media existed. There’s even an MTV show called Catfish
that exposes social media users posing as different people. However, what most people don’t
know is that this is a criminal offence which can cost you a fine not exceeding two hundred
thousand shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
5. Inciting Ethnic Hatred
Kenya still bears fresh wounds following the post-election violence that rocked the nation in
2007. Social media was one of the biggest catalysts to violence due to hate speech and
incitement spread on different platforms. As such, the government included hate speech as a
criminal offense under Section 22 of the Cybercrimes Act which limits the freedom of
expression if it’s likely to incite ethnic hatred and violence.
6. Circulating Child Pornography
There have been numerous reports of primary and high school children attending sex parties. It’s not known whether these parties are hosted by adults and whether there’s child pornography involved. However, it’s clear that there’s a huge threat of underage children engaging in sexual activities in the country. Under the Act, a child is anyone under the age of 18 and child pornography involves a child recorded or captured in a sexually explicit situation.
7. Revenge Porn
They say the internet never forgets and once you post anything on social media, it’s permanently on the internet. Unfortunately, revenge porn – the illegal distribution of a person’s explicit images without their consent – is another prevalent threat in today’s society. Many people have lost their livelihoods and even taken their lives after their explicit images surfaced online. Under the Cybercrimes Act, it’s an offense to publish, transfer or disseminate intimate images belonging to someone else. If found guilty, you’ll be liable to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both. Compared to other penalties under the same law and the impact of the crime, this is quite lenient.
8. Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullies are people who hide behind their screens and leave hateful messages on other
people’s posts. Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) are notorious for this especially when they’re
targeting a public figure or an unpopular person in their circle. Cyber bullying has become such a problem that even the First Lady of The U.S, Melania Trump, made it her priority as a First Lady to help curb it. In Kenya, cyber bullying has been criminalized under the Cybercrimes Act issues a hefty penalty of a fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or both if found guilty.