Ksh.5M fine or 2 years in jail for fake news as Uhuru signs Cyber-Crimes Bill


Ksh.5M fine or 2 years in jail for fake news as Uhuru signs Cyber-Crimes Bill
President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the controversial Computer and Cyber-Crimes Bill 2018 into law on Wednesday May 16, 2018. PHOTO/COURTESY

In Summary

  • What this means to the ordinary Kenyan is that generating and spreading fake news on social media could now land you in jail for at least five years, or leave you with millions of shillings to pay in court fines.
  • WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment.
  • The Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2018 sought to provide a framework that will prevent and control the threat of cyber crimes and other offences committed by means of computer systems.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday signed the controversial Computer and Cyber-Crimes Bill 2018 into law.

The Act – which spells out stiff punishment to cybercriminals – provides for timely and effective detection, prohibition, prevention, response, investigation and prosecution of computer and cybercrimes.

It deals with offences relating to computer systems including but not limited to unauthorised access, unauthorised interference, unauthorised interception, unauthorised disclosure of passwords, cyber espionage, false publications, child pornography, cyber terrorism and wrongful distribution of obscene or intimate images.

Following the passing of the Bill, generating and spreading fake news on social media could now land you in jail for at least five years, or leave you with millions of shillings to pay in court fines.

WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment.

The Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2018 sought to provide a framework that will prevent and control the threat of cyber crimes and other offences committed by means of computer systems.

One such crime is drafting, publishing and spreading false information, popularly known as “fake news.” The bill, tabled in the House by Majority Leader Aden Duale, proposed a Ksh.5 million fine or two years imprisonment for those found guilty of spreading fake news.

“Fake news is an offence under this bill, even when you receive fake news and forward it to another person, that’s an offence in this bill,” Duale had said.

WhatsApp groups are largely used as conduits for disseminating such false information, often with devastating consequences for victims of fake news when the posts go viral.

Cyber bullies and stalkers were also targeted by the bill. Such offences could land a culprit in jail for a term of not more than 10 years or be slapped with a Ksh.20 million fine or both. The bill also targeted those who alter information through Photoshop.

The National Security Council chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta was instrumental in crafting the Bill to provide a legal framework for dealing with crimes online crimes.

Such crimes were listed as; cyber espionage, computer fraud, unauthorised access, interference and interception to security systems as well as use of illegal devices and access codes. Statistics show that financial institutions lose over Ksh.10 billion annually to hackers.

Sharing pornography through the various electronic means will attract a maximum fine of Ksh.300,000 or 30 years in prison or both.

Those found guilty of spreading child pornography will face a fine of Ksh.20 million or 25 years in prison or both.

Critics however saw the bill as an attempt by the government to muzzle social media users and regulate information flow, especially on issues relating to graft, human rights violations and other social ills that have been exposed by a robust online community.

The Act establishes the National Computer and Cybercrimes Coordination Committee and facilitates international co-operation in dealing with computer and cybercrime matters.

It also deals with computer forgery, computer fraud, cyber harassment, publication of false information, cybersquatting, identity theft and impersonation, phishing, interception of electronic messages or money transfers, willful misdirection of electronic messages and fraudulent use of electronic data among other cyber crimes.

President Kenyatta also assented to the Public Trustee (Amendment) Bill, 2018. This Bill amends various provisions of the Public Trustee Act, bringing it into conformity with the Constitution.

The Bills were presented to the President for signing by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

Present during the signing at State House, Nairobi, were Deputy President William Ruto, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki and Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto.

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