Punishing FaceBook & WhatsApp Administrators Is A Lost Course By The Kenyan Government

Not so long after the Kenya Revenue Authority announced that mobile applications will soon be taxed on account of the number of downloads by users, the government is back at it, this time targeting social media groups. Group administrators will soon have to seek clearance from the Communication Authority in a bill expected to be tabled in parliament this week. This, in a bid to curb the dissemination of offensive content on social media platforms, will be the beginning of social media regulation in Kenya.

In the likelihood that one wishes to be a WhatsApp group admin, they will have to inform CAK of their intention to form the group. This will not only apply to WhatsApp users but Facebook admins too. According to the bill proposed by Malava MP Malulu Injendi, content spread through the platforms should not degrade or intimidate a recipient of the content.

In the event “offensive” content is disseminated at the admins watch, they will be eligible for punishment under the Kenya Information and Communication Bill,2019. “Any person who contravenes the provision of this section commits an offense and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings, or to an imprisonment of a term not exceeding one year,” reads the bill.

Uncontrollable Social Media

A good number of Governments across the world today threaten to regulate social media in the name of ‘protecting’ its citizenry from offensive content. The irony about it all is that politicians are at the forefront setting up laws and rules around Social media and its functionality. History has proven that these same platforms have landed most of them in their positions through smear campaigns and content justifying why they deserve to be elected. The said content is often offensive, controversial and propaganda meant to attract as many followers as possible.

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Today, governments depend on social media to pass information to its citizens and at the same time diminish opposition. In an event rival countries intend to set their agenda straight whether matters trade, war or even sanctions, social media is the go to platform. That said, regulating content is an uphill task that has proven impossible in countries that pioneered the campaign. In a bid to control content, China for example resulted to the complete ban of WhatsApp, Twitter and Google providing its citizenry with alternative platforms; Weibo, Baidu and WeChat even so, users have been employing Virtual Private Networks to bypass the blocks on sites.

Russia, on the other hand, ordered social media companies to store any data about Russia on local servers. However, this has not worked out as expected for the Russian government as it is currently going back and forth with Twitter and Facebook for not complying. Tools used to censor “offensive” content have also proven unviable over the years with most of the ‘targeted’ content slipping through the system.

The Kenyan government would have to employ thousands of cyber-police to monitor content disseminited through the proposed platforms, a move that would cost the taxpayer alot.

Gathoni Kuria

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