There is a great need for all Kenyans to familiarize themselves with the Computer and Cybercrimes Bill. Failure to which one might find themselves behind bars for sharing controversial material on social media platforms – currently a common trend in Kenya.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the bill into law on 16th May 2018 and it came into force at the end of May. Read on to find out more about the cybercrime issues addressed by the bill.
What led to the passing of this bill into law?
Research indicates that 60 trillion dollars are lost in the world annually due to cybercrime related attacks. Cybercrime affects financial systems, industrial institutions, financial and economic systems, as well as personal security.
The existing laws have been inadequate to safely protect institutions and individuals from cyber-attacks. Nations around the world are now struggling to form laws and regulations that will keep up with the changing technological trends.
By enacting this bill into a law, Kenya joins other countries in trying to curb cybercrime as it is a major threat to both national and international safety.
What does the Computer and Cybercrime law entail?
This legislation focuses mainly on criminals and criminal enterprises that use the internet to carry out their crime. Activities that are targeted by this legislation include cyber-terrorism, hacking, stalking, and cyberbullying.
The newly published laws prohibit the publishing of false data and the spreading of fictitious information. It also states that if one is caught obtaining or performing a prohibited act with the intent of obtaining data and using it against the Republic of Kenya, upon conviction they will serve a jail term of not more than 20 years or a fine of 10 million shillings or both.
Strict penalties are also stated in the law to counter acts of computer forgery, child pornography and espionage. This clause on the bill targets those who are involved the in the production of child pornography. Those who commit the offence of publishing child pornography will be fined not more 20 million shillings or a jail sentence of 25 years.
The law also touches on the sharing of information that is deemed inaccurate or false over social media. Kenyans and Africans at large are adopting the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where one can share any information with no regard to its authenticity. This law, however, seeks to regulate what one is allowed to share.
So why is the law facing some opposition?
Varied reactions have been aired by different people who feel that the law is limiting the right to privacy and the freedom of expression. Many cases have been presented before the high court claiming that giving the government the power to spy on people’s social media accounts without their knowledge is a violation of their privacy.
There are also concerns about the government’s failure to define what entails fake news. Some claim that this creates room for the government to bend the law in any way that they see fit.
The bloggers association of Kenya feels that the law is a strategy by the government to enable them to shut down any efforts to criticize or expose its actions. The huge amounts of fines to be charged might hinder bloggers from broadcasting crucial information. This limits journalists from investigating the top politicians and other prominent public figures.
The newly enacted law leaves the burden of proof that the news being shared is not accurate on the accused and the Law Society of Kenya plans to challenge this in court. They argue that despite this being impossible, it should not be upon the individual citizens to enforce the newly passed law. There is also an overlap in the formulation of this law as the laws on hate speech and defamation offer the same punishment as that stipulated in the new law.
The law has also been criticized for going beyond its scope. Claims are that it does not only curtail the freedom of the media but also most of the offences highlighted in the law also lack clear definition that might lead to misinterpretation of the law.
This translates to issues on human right abuses, environmental degradation, and government corrupt activities being buried at the expense of the common citizens.
What’s the way forward?
It is the view of many stakeholders that the government through the parliament should amend the Computer and Cybercrime law so that it is in line with the provisions of the constitution. To ensure that the law will achieve its objectives and improve the livelihood of the people of Kenya, the courts should also come in and clear the ambiguity that exists in the law.
It is the responsibility of the government to facilitate the provision of diversified sources of news to its citizens. It should also be on the front line fighting for the freedom of its media houses and improve the quality of journalism that is carried out in the country.