Abuse Of Social Media Curtailed By Law

Majority of Kenyans have social media presence. While I do not have the statistics I believe a very large percentage especially of the youth have social media accounts. Kenyans have been very vocal through their social media accounts on a number of current affairs and social issues facing the country. Some of the social media buzz created by Kenyans has been very positive and encouraging while most of the social media buzz has generated a lot of unnecessary strife. There have been a number of twitter wars between some Kenyans on social media and other countries for example, twitter wars between Kenya and Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa and Kenya and Tanzania. In the twitter wars usually with the hash tag #someone tell, a lot of verbal insults from both sides takes place. What prompted the Kenya/South Africa twitter battle is a comment made by a South African leader on Kenya’s Olympic team. A number of famous people have found themselves on the wrong side of the law because of misusing social media.

Social media has the power to be very revolutionary. I read an article on how the Arab Spring was helped by the social media. Social media is unique and hard to regulate. Masses can have access to information which would otherwise be deemed illegal. I believe the impact that social media has had on the masses, will prompt some sort of regulation of the same globally. Currently we do not have a specific law on use of social media though it would be presumptuous to say that social media regulation is totally unregulated. There are many laws that would govern the use of social media. The unique thing with social media is that unlike other forms of communication for example mainstream media and telecommunications, there is no clear regulation on the same therefore it is very susceptible and open to abuse. It is fairly easy to abuse social media because of the ease of remaining anonymous. It is very easy to open up a fake e-mail and use that e-mail to create a new social media account and thereafter use that account to spread a lot of hate speech. The cyber world has no clear geographical borders. It is therefore quite possible for a foreigner to create a social media page targeting Kenyan users of social media accounts.

I am not quite aware of any country that has legislated a specific law governing the use of social media. Most of the countries with cyber laws, depend on those cyber laws in regulating use of social media. Here are some Kenyan law provisions to note, before you post scandalous material on social media.

First thing to note is that the Constitution gives you Freedom of expression. This means you can write whatever you want to write on social media however there is a limitation. Keep off propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech and discrimination.

Two, know the criminal offences you may be exposing yourself to by your posts on social media. One is avoid posting anything that borders on treason. Section 40 of the Penal Code provides for this. Do not post inciting material against the President or even post anything that is likely to suggest overthrowing the Government.

Do not post any alarming publications. This means don’t post any rumours and false information that are likely to disturb public peace. You may find yourself being charged under Section 66 of the Penal Code. Avoid making any derogatory statements against any religion, or you would find yourself charged under Section 134 and 138. Lastly avoid publishing false statements about others which are likely to injure their reputation.

The key thing with responsible use of social media, is live and let live. Avoid using social media as a platform to incite others. Not only do you risk being jailed but it also puts you in very bad light with the masses.

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