Long jail terms and hefty fines for fake news and cyber bullying


Long jail terms and hefty fines for fake news and cyber bullying
A man types on a computer keyboard. REUTERS

In Summary

  • WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment once the proposed law is enacted.
  • The Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2017 seeks to provide a framework that will prevent and control the threat of cyber crimes and other offences committed by means of computer systems.
  • Critics however see 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.

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.

This, if Parliament passes the Computer and Cyber Crime Bill.

WhatsApp group administrators who condone sharing of fake news or information meant to incite ethnic hatred are also marked for severe punishment once the proposed law is enacted.

When members of the National Assembly return to the House after a one week recess, they will begin deliberating on the proposed law whose enactment will impact the use of social media in the country.

The Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill, 2017 seeks 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, proposes 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,” said Duale.

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.

“The administrator will be liable, the persons who forwards such information to another group or person will be accountable, everyone in that chain are liable to an offence,” added the Garissa Township MP.

Cyber bullies and stalkers are also targeted by this 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 is also targeting those who alter information through Photoshop.

“Cyber bullying is connected to extortion and intimidation, when you bully someone without evidence, you are causing that person distress,” said Duale.

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.

Critics however see 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.

“Once this bill is enacted by the president, how you use your smart phone, computer, tablet is of great importance because it can land you in jail or a court of law,” said Duale.

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