Beware what you post on Facebook, govt is watching closely
Internet users should brace themselves for closer government scrutiny this year as a Bill to regulate conduct on the internet is expected to be passed soon.
Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru projects that the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill 2016, published in July, will sail through Parliament early this year because lawmakers “want it more than you can imagine”.
But even before the Bill passes, Mr Mucheru said the government has acquired devices to monitor online activity among Kenyans through the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
“We’ve installed and invested in quite sophisticated infrastructure and software to ensure we can keep a safe country,” he said.
Being an election year, 2017 is projected to witness increased online activity especially on the social media.
According to Mr Oliver Mutai, a Nairobi-based digital marketer, politicians are likely to splash cash on influential social media personalities this year to capitalise on the ease of spreading messages that the internet brings.
“Politicians will look for those people that are very vocal on social media, who have branded themselves as having a political voice,” said Mr Mutai.
Twitter is expected to see more heated hash tags and its influencers are projected to use all tricks — including using artificial followers known as bots — to show they are on top of their game.
Facebook is projected to be the marketplace for dozens of messages, with its sister networks Instagram and WhatsApp expected to be conduits of circulating all manner of messages.
It is also expected that fake news, which was a big nuisance that riddled the November elections in the US, will get more prominence in Kenya as politicians use all tricks in the book to outdo rivals and as social media users strive to get their content shared more.
“Most people believe any publicity is good, whether positive or negative,” said Mr Mutai. “One other thing we could see is some politicians might try and do something controversial. People gain fame from being controversial on Twitter.”
In Mr Mucheru’s view, some Kenyans don’t know how unlawful fake posts can be.
“It’s creating both a nuisance and scaring people. It can even border on terrorising people, when you’re giving all these false news. We already have very clear laws as a country. Whether you’re using technology or not, you must not cause panic in the country by creating fake news and fake things. I don’t think we need special laws for that,” he said.
The minister said coordinated efforts between the ICT and the Interior ministries will continue in a bid to ensure everyone is responsible for their actions online.
WRONG SIDE OF LAW
In 2016, some of the people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law include a househelp who posted on Facebook in October that she was willing to kill her child to get married. It later emerged that the child was not hers after police tracked her down and arrested her.
Still in October, a man who posted a photo with a Standard Four girl, saying he had had sex with her, was apprehended by police.
However, 2016 was a good year for social media users as the High Court thrashed a law that was increasingly being used to charge those who had posted messages perceived to question the high and mighty.
The law, that used to be in Section 29 of the Kenya Information and Communication Act, had been used against a number of bloggers until April when Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi on Tuesday declared it unconstitutional.